In the realm of legal cases, be it a divorce, probate dispute, fraud allegation, or due diligence, the question of whether to hire a private investigator (PI) has undergone a significant transformation. In the bygone eras of the 1970s, 1980s, and even the 1990s, hiring a PI was often deemed essential. However, the landscape has shifted, rendering many of the traditional roles of private investigators obsolete.
The Evolution of Investigative Research
Advancements in technology have empowered individuals to conduct research that was once exclusive to licensed investigators. Background checks, asset investigations, activity monitoring—tasks that previously required access to secret databases—are now feasible through readily available online tools. Google, the ubiquitous search engine, has become a treasure trove of information, offering insights into a person’s assets, bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, activities, business involvements, and even social media presence.
The DIY Approach
For about 90% of cases that once necessitated a PI, individuals now have the option to take a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach. The proliferation of online resources allows anyone with the time and inclination to delve into the investigative process. The need for a licensed investigator has diminished, with many activities that were formerly in the PI’s purview now accessible to the general public.
When to Consider a PI
While the DIY route is viable for many, there are specific scenarios where hiring a licensed investigator remains crucial. For instance:
- Certification of Evidence: In legal proceedings requiring certified evidence, a licensed investigator may be necessary to provide a written report, adding credibility to the presented information.
- In-Person Observation (Surveillance): Though individuals can technically conduct their own surveillance, caution is advised. Surveillance conducted by parties involved in a legal dispute may cross ethical and legal boundaries, potentially leading to accusations of stalking or harassment. A licensed investigator, well-versed in the legal limits, can navigate such situations effectively.
- Requesting Private Information: Certain private information, when requested from government agencies or financial institutions, may be accessible only to licensed investigators. Checking the “licensed investigator” box on relevant forms, accompanied by a license number, is often the key to obtaining such information.
The Role of a PI in a Changing Landscape
The modern PI’s role has shifted from performing routine investigative tasks to providing specialized services where certification, adherence to legal limits, and access to restricted information are paramount. In an era where information is at our fingertips, the choice between hiring a PI and taking a DIY approach depends on the specific requirements of a case.
The advent of online resources has democratized information, making it more accessible to the public. While the need for a private investigator has diminished in many scenarios, their expertise remains invaluable in certain legal contexts. The decision to hire a PI or embark on a DIY investigation ultimately hinges on the nature of the case and the specific legal requirements involved.