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Can a Non-Licensed PI Provide Investigative Services?

Diverse detectives working in private agency and conducting an investigation

In California, private investigators (PI) are licensed by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services, a subset of the Department of Consumer Affairs. Licensed PIs are permitted to conduct a variety of investigative services on behalf of clients, and they may open their own PI business or manage a PI firm employing other investigative staff. Clients often wonder, however, what is the purpose of the license? Can’t someone off the street just start conducting research and investigation in order to find someone, conduct due diligence, and otherwise provide investigative services? What does the PI license actually mean? Continue reading to learn about restrictions for unlicensed PIs in California, and if you are in need of private investigative services, call the seasoned and qualified intelligence-gathering team at Millennium Intelligence Agency (MIA).

Unlicensed PIs Can Work Under a Licensed PI

In California, as in many jurisdictions, an unlicensed private investigator can work under the supervision of a licensed PI. The unlicensed PI can conduct investigative services before applying for their own license and indeed may do so in order to obtain the requisite hours of investigative experience necessary to qualify for their PI license. Aspiring PIs can also fulfill this requirement through other investigative experience (such as prior work in law enforcement) and can limit the experience requirement with a relevant degree. A PI firm may employ a number of unlicensed investigators and other staff, but the buck always stops with the person at the top who is actually licensed for the job.

Unlicensed PIs Cannot Work as a PI on Their Own in California

While an unlicensed person can work for a PI firm, a person without a PI license is legally prohibited from setting up their own shop in the State of California. Without a proper license, a person may not practice private investigations. In fact, knowingly hiring a private investigator without a license is itself a crime in California.

The purpose of the PI license is to ensure that the PI you hire is qualified to do the job. The license also guarantees a certain level of accountability–if they break the rules or break the law, they can lose their license. PIs cannot unlawfully invade people’s privacy, and obtaining information by means of deception or through unlawful means can render that information unusable in court. In fact, California’s PI law prohibits PIs from committing acts of “dishonesty or fraud.” Moreover, becoming a PI requires passing a criminal background check. Individuals with felony convictions cannot obtain a PI license.

The license barrier ensures that unstable individuals who may be prone to violence or irrational behavior are not given the aura of authority when conducting an investigation. Several criminal cases have involved non-licensed PIs committing robbery, assault, and other crimes while claiming to be in service of a client on an investigation. Licensed PIs cannot get away with such intolerable behavior.

If you are performing due diligence in advance of a settlement, gathering evidence for pending litigation, working to establish a financial profile, or trying to locate a missing party, Millennium Intelligence Agency is ready to offer you vital support. Call our experienced, thorough legal investigative team today at 213-986-9888 for efficient and effective intelligence-gathering services.

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