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Is Evidence From A PI Unbreakable In Court?

A common thought is that Private Investigators (PI’s) are all ex-cops with long histories. Collecting evidence, digging up the dirt and documenting their findings into solid reports that are unbreakable in court… But is that true? What if you learn that a PI has been watching you or that a PI has looked into your background? Does that mean that you have no recourse to their testimony in court?

Luckily for you, the answer to all of the above is “No”. Here is a little insight into what options you have and why it isn’t necessary to throw in the towel until the fight is over.

What is a Private Investigator?

First up, what is a PI? Good question. Private Investigators are considered civilians. Despite the fact that some of them are much better at what they do than others, many of them don’t have much more training than you do.

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Every province or state has it’s own “training” requirements in terms of hours and syllabus, and then each PI candidate is required to take and pass a “test”. Training and testing is not what you might think, however. While some “schools” teach aspects of investigation as an overview. The tests themselves are rarely based on an investigation in practice. They focus on rules, regulations and often obscure topics like “Latin Terminology”. Therefore, the majority of the investigation courses focus on how to pass the test and not how to do the job.

PI vs. Police

Next, while many PI’s are former police officers, investigation as a PI versus investigation as a police officer with a badge are two very different realities. Many police officers that try to become PI’s have a tendency to quit or leave the field fairly soon after getting into it. There’s no union, no pension, very limited training and it’s a lot of work to keep up.

All of that being said, PI’s are not created equally. The majority of them start in surveillance and most will never do another investigation outside of that. (Other than possibly surfing the internet and calling it an OSINT or SOCMINT investigation.)

The few that do go beyond surveillance might get into research (a very rewarding but often boring and not at all glamorous field) or the odd special projects, like working on labour disputes, and running down leads.

That’s about the spot that you come in. Somewhere between surveillance and non-monitored, rarely mentored “hobby” investigating. An investigator has been given your name, address and a couple of key points of interest and that investigator has watched you, possibly taken some video, looked you up on the internet and maybe even talked to people that know you or work for (yes, even if you work under the table!).

As such, depending on the PI that is assigned and the job that was mandated, there is lots of room for error in the collection of evidence. Inconsistencies in reporting, and even falsification of facts or evidence all the way to court. It may sound extreme but it happens far more frequently than you might think.

What can you do?

  • Review the evidence that is put before you and ask if there is anything further in the file. Depending on how the PI was retained, you may be entitled to a lot of information that they don’t want you to see.
  • Ask for a copy of the complete unedited video. That’s right, the copy that goes to court has often been “trimmed” for various reasons.
  • You can hire your own PI to review the information and give an objective opinion on it. (Again, PI’s are not created equally – choose wisely)
  • Have your investigator counter-investigate the claims and evidence. (Only do this if you are innocent or sure you didn’t do what has been claimed that you did. Otherwise, your paying for someone to put nails in your case’s coffin)

Not every PI, PI Firm, case, or circumstance is created equally. There are times when you’re best to face the music, or accept that you’ve been bested. But if you are faced with a claim that isn’t true, evidence that you don’t believe is genuine, or facts that aren’t factual – you owe to yourself to consider getting a second opinion. When it comes to investigation, nobody knows what goes on behind the scenes like another PI.

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