As at 2010, as stated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are thirty-four thousand, seven hundred private investigators in the United States of America. The BLS foretell that by the year 2020, the line of work would have grown by twenty-one percent, bringing the number of private investigators that will be operating in the United States to about forty-one thousand, nine hundred. Due to this vast number of private investigators in the country, quite a lot of states have implemented strict measures as well as licensing requirements for specialists in this profession.
Is it all states that call for the licensing of private investigators? No, not all states demand the licensure of private investigators. Thus far, only seven states do not require the licensing of private investigators. The states are (in no particular order) Alaska, Wyoming, South Dakota, Idaho, Colorado, Alabama, and Mississippi. On the other hand, three of the seven states demand license requirements at the local level; the states are Alaska, Alabama, and Wyoming. Colorado has unpaid but state-issued license prerequisites which were only just authorized in 2012.
The states that do not demand license requirements for private investigators at any level, be it state or local, have professional unions which are active and have specified regulations as well as a code of ethics. For a private investigator to be a member of these associations for private investigators, a well-defined set of principles for the practice must be met.
But the other forty-three states that have made it obligatory for private investigators to provide license requirements have precise requirements for licensing. Part of the conditions includes education, application processes, experience as well as the methods of renewal. Furthermore, a few states permit private investigators to carry firearms; part of the additional requirements for such states that allow private investigators to be armed with weapons include certification to bear arms, compulsory weapons training, as well as certification renewal.
In spite of this, because each state has its legal code on the subject of private investigation and its vocation, the requirements for acquiring a license to practice as a private investigator varies from one state to another.
As a rule, the minimum prerequisite for any private investigator to be approved to practice and be given a license comprise: being no less than twenty-one years of age. Don’t be surprised though because some states stipulate that applicants should not be less than twenty-five years of age. Other requirements also include having a high school diploma or an equivalent and also to possess the U.S. residency or right of abode. A majority of the states also have strict decrees which forbid applicants with criminal records, felony sentences or convictions of immorality from practicing as private investigators.
As for the requirements for education and experience, each state has its preferences, but the common requirements concerning education include having a degree or its equivalent in criminal justice or a program that is related to it. Several factors make the requirements for experience to vary one of which is the field within which the experience was acquired. A lot of states allow the substitution of education for experience with the intention of fulfilling the minimum ground rules for licensing. Some states like Oklahoma accept candidates with zero experience to receive the license to practice on condition that they finish CLEET-approved training.
Different agencies or organizations belonging to the state supervise the licensing of private investigators. For instance, in California, private investigators receive their license through the Department of Consumer Affairs, Investigative Services as well as through the Bureau of Security. In Arizona, applicants due to receive private investigator licenses obtain the license from the Licensing Unit of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Some states, such as New Jersey as well as New Hampshire control and provide licenses for private investigators through the state police while states such as North Dakota provides license through its Private Investigations and Security Board. Tennessee releases licenses via its Private Investigation and Polygraph Commission. Other states have commissions that are dedicated to providing licenses to approved private investigators.
The process of applying for a private investigator license is the same across most of the states. The method includes:
i. Achieving the minimum license requirements
ii. Possessing the compulsory education or experience requirements
iii. Completion of license application as well as providing the essential documentation
iv. Completion of fingerprinting procedure to aid investigation of the applicant’s background
v. Pass the state exams
vi. Maintenance of the state license by continuous education and renewal of license.
Nevertheless, some states do not follow the above process for the licensing of a private investigator. Pennsylvania, for example, has a different process which requires that applicants get in touch with the Clerk of Courts in their respective county of residence to ask for a court date and then apply for licensing.
Some professionals have to possess some very specific set of requirements before they receive licenses to practice as private investigators. Such professionals, which include travel agents, mortgage brokers, and private investigators, must possess a legitimate and current bond to practice. This protects clients from financial obligations which develop out of negligence or fraud. Commercial surety bonds designed for non-contact stuff are frequently required for obtaining a license as a private investigator.
To get a surety bond requires pre-qualification for the bond through an insurance agent or a surety bond company that has the permission to give out surety bonds. Then signing an indemnity agreement contract is a necessity as well. The minimum amount of surety bonds for each state differ from one state to another with several states calling for private investigators to possess a surety bond that is not less than ten thousand dollars.
In the course of carrying out the assignments received from clients, private investigators may have the need to travel from one state to the other, although they must ensure that they abide by the state rules and guidelines when doing so. A lot of states permit private investigators to cross the state lines just for the purpose of carrying out investigations so long as they kick off their investigations from their home state.
Nonetheless, the state licenses issued to private investigators cannot be transferred to other states, except for one condition. Some states have signed a mutual benefit agreement which permits private investigators to conduct their businesses between these states with no need of obtaining another license. The states which have signed this agreement (known as reciprocity agreements) are Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, California and North Carolina.