The worlds of private investigators and traditional law enforcement often cross paths. For this reason, some people think PI’s have the same legal authority as law enforcement. Clients often ask is “Can private investigators make arrests?” While PI’s specialize in getting information that is normally hard to find, they must still work within legal boundaries.
What is an Arrest?
The act of making an arrest is taken very seriously in the United States because an arrest is the suspension or interruption of a person’s freedom of movement. An arrest occurs when a person is taken into custody either for questioning about an offense or to be formally charged with a crime. Laws within the United States grant powers of arrest to specific public officials, most notably the police. In some states, any person can make a citizen’s arrest when a crime has occurred. But a citizen’s arrest amounts to not more than temporary detention until law enforcement can be called to make an actual arrest of an offender.
Can Private Investigators Make Arrests?
Although most states require private investigators to be licensed, being licensed or running a PI firm does not convey any special law enforcement arrest authority. A PI may not even be able to make a citizen’s arrest when a crime has been committed in the PI’s presence. Some states allow any person to make a citizen’s arrest, but even then, a PI is better off being a good witness for the police. When a crime is being committed, the safest course of action is to document the incident and contact law enforcement. The police can make the arrest, and the PI can be a good witness for the prosecution.
What about Making a Citizen’s Arrest?
Making a citizen’s arrest can be a risky proposition. Most criminals don’t want to be arrested when law enforcement is involved, so imagine how your average criminal might react when a regular person tries placing him or her under arrest. Are you willing to chase a person and use physical force until law enforcement arrives? What if it turns out you were wrong, and the person did not commit a crime? Think of the civil liabilities involved with making an arrest and possibly injuring the person, not to mention the risk of injuring yourself, other people, or damaging personal property.
Most private investigators do not want to accept the liability of making a citizen’s arrest. You should be very cautious of any PI who says otherwise. As a client, you could also be held liable for a private investigators misconduct. Hiring a professional licensed private investigator with a proven track record of ethical conduct is tremendously important.
Private Investigators can Assist Law Enforcement
Contrary to media portrayals, investigators in the public sector (i.e. police, sheriff’s departments, state police, etc.) don’t always have the time or resources to concentrate on every case. Law enforcement will be unlikely to open an investigation unless a crime or breach of public trust has been committed. A private investigator working on behalf of a client can dedicate his or her full attention and resources to a single case, often developing the information law enforcement need to justify opening a criminal case.
On the other hand, when law enforcement does open a criminal case, the police often will only develop enough evidence to present criminal charges. Undiscovered witnesses or other types of evidence could still exist to exonerate an innocent person and implicate an actual guilty party. Private investigators can be instrumental in these circumstances, especially when working with a criminal defense team.
H7 Investigative Services conducts private investigations in Santa Clarita, Antelope Valley, and throughout the greater Los Angeles area.
If you want to find out how our agency can help with your case, click through to our consultation request page or call us at (661)454-7513.