Your Cart


Can Private Investigators Be Charged With Stalking

Can Private Investigators Be Charged With Stalking – Facts You Need To Know!

If you are going through a child custody case, divorce, or another challenging personal family issue, there is a chance someone might have hired private criminal investigators to spy on you. Any reasonable person would feel frustrated knowing that a private detective was following their every move, but the good news is we are here to help you protect yourself! So what can you do when you feel a PI is invading your privacy? Can private investigators be charged with stalking? Let’s get into the facts now!

Simply put, private investigators are not allowed to stalk you or invade your privacy. However, there are some things a private detective can do to gather information such as using GPS tracking devices or observing your activity on public property that is 100% legal. Here are some helpful tips about what PIs can’t do to help you better understand your rights and not become a victim of stalking by a private detective.

Can Private Investigators Be Charged With Stalking

5 Things PIs Can’t Legally Do In A Personal Investigation

Wear A Badge

Private Detective Fake Wear A Badge

A licensed private investigator cannot pretend to be law enforcement or misrepresent themselves as police officers. In fact, it is against the law in almost every state. However, a PI involved in infidelity investigations, background investigations, or fraud investigations is not required to identify themselves. Here are key points about why PIs can’t legally wear badges:

  • Impersonation Prohibition: PIs are not law enforcement officers and cannot impersonate one, even accidentally. Most states forbid PIs from wearing uniforms or carrying badges.
  • Misleading Appearance: A badge or uniform can lead to the mistaken belief that a PI is a police officer, which is illegal. In some states, licensed PIs are required to avoid any appearance of being a law enforcement officer.
  • Legal Consequences: Impersonating a police officer, by wearing law enforcement insignia or presenting a badge, can lead to criminal charges.
  • Real-Life Example: Patricia Wolfman, a Florida PI, was arrested for impersonating a police officer when she flashed a badge and a handgun, claiming to be a “Detective of Lake County, Florida”.
  • Specific State Laws: In Florida, for instance, only sheriffs and deputy sheriffs may wear five-pointed star badges. Any similar badge used by a licensed PI suggests impersonation of a law enforcement officer, an act considered misconduct


This one is a little more tricky, as the one-party consent and two-party consent laws are different in each state. Although it is overwhelmingly illegal for a PI to use a recording device in a personal investigation, they can take photographs of targets talking and write notes down about what they are saying. Here are some key facts to consider:

  • Wiretap Act Regulations: The Wiretap Act, part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), governs the interception of electronic communications in the U.S. It prohibits the intentional interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications without at least one party’s consent and requires law enforcement to obtain a court order or warrant for wiretaps, barring emergencies.
  • One-Party vs. Two-Party Consent States: The legality of recording conversations varies by state. In one-party consent states, recording is lawful if one party agrees. These states include Alabama, Arizona, Texas, and others. In two-party consent states, all parties must agree to the recording. This includes California, Florida, Illinois, and several others.
  • Illegal Wiretapping Penalties: For PIs, intentionally using wiretapping technology to intercept communications is illegal and carries consequences. Violations of these laws can result in criminal and civil penalties, including fines and imprisonment.

Photos Inside Your Home

If a PI is gathering evidence on a cheating spouse they are not allowed to take photos of the husband or wife while in the house, backyard, or any area where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. In fact, penalties are very severe for private detectives who are found to intentionally violate any local law relating to the expectation of privacy.

  • Expectation of Privacy: Private investigators cannot legally take photos inside a home, backyard, or any area where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy. Filming into a private residence where the subject expects privacy can lead to legal challenges. While taking photos and videos from public property is usually legal, issues arise when private property is involved.
  • Nuisance Claims: PIs could face nuisance claims if their activities interfere with a property owner’s reasonable use of their property. Regularly entering a neighbor’s yard to take photos, for example, could lead to such claims. The key is that the annoyance to the property owner needs to be significant, not just a result of hypersensitivity or subjectivity​.

These points emphasize the importance of respecting privacy and property laws in private investigations. PIs must be aware of these restrictions to avoid severe penalties and legal repercussions for intentional violations of privacy laws.

Hack Into Social Media Accounts

Private Investigator Hack Into Social Media Accounts

PIs can’t remotely access personal cell phones to read text messages, review any online dating profiles, or conduct surveillance using spy apps. Regarding the legality of private investigators (PIs) hacking into social media accounts or accessing personal devices, several federal laws apply:

  • Federal Laws Against Hacking: Key federal laws addressing hacking include the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the Stored Communications Act (SCA), and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). These laws broadly cover unauthorized access to computers and electronic communications.
  • Protected Computers and Devices: Practically any computer connected to the internet, including personal computers, servers, cell phones, and tablets, is considered a protected computer under these laws. Hacking such devices is a federal crime and can result in felony or misdemeanor charges​​.
  • Unauthorized Access Prohibited: The CFAA, in particular, is the leading federal anti-hacking legislation. It specifically prohibits unauthorized access to computers and electronic systems, which would include hacking into social media accounts or remotely accessing personal cell phones without consent​.

Trespass On Private Property

Even in corporate investigations or criminal defense investigations, private detectives are not allowed to enter private property to gather evidence. The truth is, that private investigators (PIs) face strict legal restrictions regarding trespassing on private property. Here are some of the key points you should be aware of when it comes to a private detective possibly trespassing on your private property:

  • General Prohibition: PIs have no legal grounds to enter private property without permission, irrespective of their investigation’s purpose. Trespassing laws apply to PIs just as they do to anyone else. Gaining access to someone else’s property legally requires an invitation from the property owner​.
  • Business Property: The laws remain consistent whether a PI is investigating a business or a private residence. Trespassing on business property without permission is illegal. Businesses often have areas open to customers, but PIs cannot access private areas without the owner’s consent. Trespassing to access data on a work computer, for example, compounds the legal violation.
  • Burglary and Theft: Breaking into homes or vehicles is explicitly illegal and considered burglary or theft. This applies even if the vehicle is not on private property; it is still considered someone’s property​.
  • Legal Implications for Evidence: Evidence obtained through illegal means, such as trespassing, is typically inadmissible in court under the exclusionary rule. This rule applies to all private investigation firms, including those working for an attorney.

Private investigation agencies offer a range of services. They utilize background checks for financial fraud and criminal records. Additionally, they conduct counter-surveillance and bug sweeps for stalking victims. GPS tracking technology enables discreet vehicle tracking during investigations. These methods provide valuable information to identify cheating spouses, locate missing persons, and uncover deception among friends and family.

What To Do If You Think A Private Detective Put A Tracker On Your Car

Where To Hide A GPS Tracker On A Car

If you suspect a private detective has placed a tracker on your car, it’s crucial to approach the situation with caution and diligence. Acting impulsively can compromise your evidence, while methodically assessing the situation can help uphold your privacy rights. Here are 7 steps you need to take if you believe a private detective put a tracker on your car:

  1. Inspect your vehicle. Begin by examining common hiding spots like the undercarriage, wheel wells, and behind bumpers.
  2. Use a GPS detector. Purchase or borrow a GPS tracker detector. This device can help locate hidden tracking devices.
  3. Visit a professional. If unsure, take your car to a mechanic or technician familiar with GPS devices for a thorough inspection.
  4. Document everything. If you find a suspicious device, photograph it immediately. This can serve as crucial evidence.
  5. Contact law enforcement. After verifying the presence of a tracker, inform your local police department.
  6. Seek legal advice. Discuss your situation with an attorney to understand your rights and potential legal actions.
  7. Stay vigilant. Always be aware of your surroundings. Someone might be closely monitoring your movements.

If you want more information on the most up-to-date stalking laws or believe you might be the victim of stalking please protect yourself by contacting RAINN for help. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Sue A Private Detective For Invasion Of Privacy?

Yes, but success is unlikely. Stalking is typically a criminal complaint, so law enforcement’s involvement is crucial. If you believe a PI is stalking you, report it to the police. Pursuing a civil lawsuit requires proof of damages, and PIs have certain privileges. Losing in court can lead to legal expenses and paying the other party’s costs

What Is The Difference Between A Private Investigator And Stalking?

Private investigators are licensed professionals who are hired to gather information about a person, while stalking is a criminal act of repeatedly following, harassing, or threatening someone. A private investigator must follow the law and ethical guidelines when conducting their investigations, whereas stalking is illegal and can result in legal action.

Can Private Investigators Be Charged With Stalking?

Yes, if a private investigator is following a woman repeatedly and causing them to feel unsafe, it could be considered stalking. If you believe that a private investigator is stalking you, you should contact your local law enforcement agency or organizations like Safe Horizon to seek help.

Are There Any Legal Actions That Can Be Taken Against Private Detectives For Stalking?

Yes, victims of crime have the right to pursue legal action against private investigators who engage in stalking. If you feel isolated or unsafe due to a private investigator’s actions, you may want to speak to an attorney to explore your legal options.

What Are Some Common Investigative Methods Used By Private Investigators, And How Can They Affect Personal Safety?

Some common investigative methods used by private investigators include vehicle tracking and adultery investigations. These methods can make someone feel uncomfortable and unsafe if they feel they are being followed or monitored without their consent. If you are concerned about your safety, consider speaking to an expert in the field, such as a lawyer or a victim advocate from Safe Horizon, who can guide you in protecting your rights.

Some of the images in this article, “Can Private Investigators Be Charged With Stalking” were generated using AI

Matthew Henson
Latest posts by Matthew Henson (see all)
Free Shipping

On All Orders This Week Only

Free Technical Support

Get Help 7 Days A Week

100% Secure Checkout

PayPal / MasterCard / Visa