Word Warriors Public Speaking Club

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What do you need to know when hiring a Private Investigative Service?

Private Investigators

Private investigators may investigate crimes, individuals, the cause of fires, losses, accidents, damage, or injury; search for lost or stolen property; and obtain evidence for use in court. They may protect persons only if such services are incidental to an investigation; they may not protect property. Private investigators must be licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs and pass a criminal history background check through the Department of Justice and FBI.

Firearm Permits

Private investigation licensees may not carry weapons unless they have a firearms qualification card issued by the Department. They may not carry concealed weapons unless they have a permit from local law enforcement and a firearm permit from the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Choosing a Company

Private investigators are listed in the yellow pages of your telephone directory. Before you choose one, do the following:

  • Get the recommendations of friends.
  • Call 1-800-952-5210 to find out if the business or individual has a current license issued by the Department of Consumer Affairs and if any complaints are on file.
  • Ask your local district attorney's office or Better Business Bureau about the company.
  • Compare the prices and services of different companies.

Before You Sign

It is always a good idea–and in some cases it is required by law–to have a written contract. Before signing a contract, be sure:

  • To read it carefully. Make sure you understand all of it. If you don't like what you see, don't sign. If you don't understand it, take it home overnight. Don't allow yourself to be rushed into signing. Check it over with a friend or your attorney if you are unsure.
  • To ask the company to cross out words you don't like and add words you believe should be there.
  • To insist that it include all oral promises and written agreements between you and the company.

Canceling a Contract

If you change your mind about a private investigation service you have contracted for at your home, you have three business days to cancel the contract. (The three-day period does not apply if you purchase the service at the company office or location other than your home.) Begin counting on the day after you sign the contract. You must cancel in writing. Hand carry the cancellation letter to the company, or mail it certified mail, return receipt requested. (Be sure to keep a copy for your records.) The company must refund your deposit within ten days of receiving your cancellation, unless the contract states another time period.

Spanish-Language Contracts

If the contract negotiation is in Spanish, the company is required to give you a Spanish translation of the contract.

For Help

If you have problems regarding a contract with a private investigator, contact a private attorney or your local Legal Aid Office (listed in the phone directory white pages).

The above information came from the BSIS website located at: http://www.bsis.ca.gov/forms_pubs/bsishire.shtml

Here is some additional suggestions when hiring a Private Investigator:


Ask the prospective private investigator for a copy of his insurance policy. If the work to be performed requires a firearm then they are required to have an insurance policy for a minimum of $500,000.


Look for a private investigator that specializes in the type of work that needs to be performed. After all, you wouldn't go to an ear, nose, and throat doctor if you needed a Gynecologist.

Ask for work product from a similar case

When hiring a private investigator for a specific job, ask for a copy of a redacted report from a similar case. When there is video or photos involved, ask to be shown a copy of their work, i.e. a video or photos from a case.

REMEMBER, YOU ARE THE ONE HIRING THE P.I. and so you can ask whatever questions you feel appropriate. Don't just go with the cheapest because sometimes you get exactly what you pay for.


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