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What Can A Private Investigator Do & Not Do

28 July 2022
Typewriter PI

When we watch movies about private detectives, you may believe that they are super investigators who work in legally dubious ways – breaking into facilities, tapping phones, hacking, and more. However, this is not true. Although the daily life of a private detective may not be an action movie, the research work is still exciting and enriching. The work of private detectives results in the solving of crimes, the prosecution and the missing individuals being found and generally solved things.

In this article, we will find out answers to various questions related to what private detectives can and cannot do. We will analyze what private detectives do, and then answer some of the most common questions about what private detectives can and can’t do legally.

What does a private investigator do?

The most important responsibility of a private detective is to gather information for his clients. In some scenarios, it may involve a large range of research tasks. In general, these activities include interviewing people, conducting reviews, tracking, and monitoring other legal, personal and financial information.

However, it is important to note that some laws have requirements that private detectives must comply with. In addition, all private detectives need to meet all business requirements, and may even apply for a business license to conduct business.

Who and why one engages a private detective?

Individuals, and companies hire private detectives for many reasons. Individuals can hire a private investigator to find a missing person, investigate a lawsuit, or supervise for many reasons. Organizations, companies, and law firms also use private detectives to deal with fraud cases, investigate incidents in the workplace, prove in court cases or work in other cases. One example is that the insurance sector regularly hires private detectives to investigate insurance fraud.

What can private detectives do legally?

Because private detectives often do the same job as law enforcement and detectives, many people have questions about what private detectives can do. Below is the list of questions and answers.

Can private detectives arrest people?

Private investigators are not police officers; thus, they have no arresting’s authority. This also applies in cases where a private detective witnesses a crime. However, the information gathered by the investigator could be used by the police for arresting criminals.

Can private detectives spy on people?

Privacy laws remain a hot topic today, and private detectives need to know them well to make sure they comply with all applicable federal, state, and local privacy laws. There are movies that usually depict private detectives hiding in homes at night, taking pictures of people in their homes and stalking people. However, this is illegal in Singapore. Everyone has the right to privacy in their own home. Private detectives who violate these privacy laws can easily find themselves in legal trouble.

Can private investigators take photographs without permission?

A private detective can take a picture of that person and examine him as part of the investigation. However, private detectives should be careful to keep up with the laws regarding photographing people in public.

Can private investigators break into homes?

Private detectives, like everyone else, can go anywhere in public. However, they may not interfere with private land, enter or otherwise illegally gain access to any building, storage area, filing cabinet or without permission.

Can private detectives record audio conversations?

Private detectives are not allowed to trespass anyone’s home and install audio recording devices. However, a PI can record audio conversations for keepsake or protection. Generally, you will not be in legal trouble if the recorded audio is not being used or disclosed by you, especially when it contains sensitive information.

For scenarios where the audio conversations contain gossip or immoral information, such as celebrity gossip, it is not considered confidential, thus a PI will not be in legal trouble for recording this conversation without consent.

To be sued, the audio recording has been of essential quality of confidence and of detrimental to the person who has spoken the sensitive information.

Can private detectives break into people’s private online accounts?

Private detectives cannot in any case hack into a private account or gain illegal access to any private device, account, or information. Private researchers often use the Internet for their research activities. They can publicly access people’s profiles on social networks, browse public databases and people information websites, and search for people in available information folders.

Things a private investigator can’t do

Unlicensed investigation work

It is illegal for a person to conduct investigation work without proper training and license in Singapore. To get qualified, you must obtain a PI license from the Singapore Police Force. This is only open to Singapore citizen and Singapore Permanent Residents.

Private investigators are needed to complete proper training so that they are able to provide professional advice for clients.

Pretend law enforcement

Private detectives are not allowed to wear a badge, uniform, or use a logo or phrase that may indicate that the investigator is a police officer. This prevents private detectives from deceiving individuals about their interactions with government agencies. In some cases, private detectives will wear badges and uniforms indicating that they are private detectives and will always work with local law enforcement or federal officials.

Participate in unethical practices

Misconduct practice will endanger individuals, including obtaining information for non-investigative purposes or using inappropriate methods. An example is finding an individual and providing information about that person to a stalker who may endanger that person’s safety.


There are many rules and regulations to follow when conducting private investigation works. KnowledgeTree offers a PI course that helps to ensure compliance with legal requirements. You may find more information here.