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The Private Investigator Toolkit: What We Can and Cannot Use to Gather Information

HomeBlogThe Private Investigator Toolkit: What We Can and Cannot Use to Gather Information

If you’ve watched any movies that feature a private investigator, odds are the on-screen depictions included lots of tense drama, nail-biting action, and a PI decked out with loads of neat tools to use for their mission. While a real-life private investigator certainly has access to useful tools and techniques, they are still bound by the law and cannot use “any means necessary” to gather their information.

The Private Investigator Toolkit: What We Can and Cannot Use to Gather Information

Illegally obtained information is inadmissible in court and will not help with an official investigation. In this article, we’ll cover a few of the tools and practices a private investigator might use, along with a few they definitely don’t.

Surveillance Tools

  • Binoculars: Binoculars or telescopic lenses are extremely useful if a private investigator needs to watch something from a distance without arousing suspicion. However, they still have to abide by privacy laws, and surveillance must be done in public areas if the person being surveilled is unaware of the investigator. Private investigators must have a homeowner’s permission before they ever access private areas.
  • Cameras: Cameras are used to capture images and video of someone being investigated, but the same rules apply here – public areas are allowed, but a private investigator may not trespass, record, or photograph someone in a private area.

Recording Devices

  • Voice Recording: North Carolina is a one-party consent state as of 2023, which means that one person in a conversation needs to consent to have it recorded. A private investigator cannot tap phones to listen to calls between two unknowing people or place hidden recording devices to capture conversations without at least one person who is actively participating in the conversation aware of it.

Digital Tools

  • Computers: A private investigator might use a computer for a wide range of applications, but any information accessed must be publicly available unless, again, they have the absolute consent of the person in question to access the information. This means that things like public social media profiles are fair game, but private information like personal emails are off-limits without the owner’s consent.

If you have questions about how a private investigator can help you while remaining within the law’s bounds, we encourage you to reach out to us.