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The short answer is “no” — private investigators do not have police powers and, in most cases, private investigators do not have any more power than the average citizen.

There are, however, some investigators who like to flash their old badges or flash a concealed handgun, but leaving anyone with the mistaken impression that you are law enforcement is illegal. In fact, in most states, it is illegal for a private investigator to carry a badge, wear a uniform, or use any logo that could imply that the investigator is a state or federal official.

Private investigators do not have the legal right to go onto private property without an owner’s consent, nor do they have the ability to obtain bank records, email records, or phone records; they also cannot tamper with mail, wiretap a phone without consent, or obtain information or data through illegal means.

So…what does a private investigator do?

A private investigator is typically hired by businesses, law firms, or individuals to obtain specific fact-based information to help them make more informed decisions. Investigators help clients find facts, identify risks, provide peace of mind, and see the big picture.

How do private investigators find information?

Investigators use a variety of sources, including public records, investigative databases, court records, government repositories, surveillance, and human intelligence to obtain information about individuals.

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