What Kind of Records Can a Private Investigator Obtain?

By Kristy Robinson
Private investigators have access to many public and private records.

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Private investigators are contracted by private citizens to find information on issues such as genealogy, cheating spouses or business history. Private investigators in states with licensing procedures have access to a wide variety of public, proprietary and private records. Availability regulations are determined at federal and state levels and vary by jurisdiction.

Public Records

Private investigators have access to court documents and other public records. These include marriage and divorce records, deeds and mortgages, wills and civil and criminal case records. Investigators may also be able to access older birth, census and death records once the information has become available. Individual census records are sealed for 72 years; birth and death records are typically sealed for 50 years.

Private Records

In some jurisdictions private investigators are also granted access to private records such as sealed or expunged court cases. To obtain access the investigator must be licensed by the state where the records are located. Under the Freedom of Information Act there are also provisions allowing access to some private information by licensed individuals in specific circumstances.

Proprietary Databases

Licensed private investigators are also granted access to proprietary information search databases. These databases can quickly produce information such as known addresses, phone numbers and business information. The information produced by the database eliminates the need for an investigator to travel to individual courthouses to find the information, but is information that would have been generally available to the public.

Records Not Accessible

Contrary to popular belief, private investigators cannot access phone records, Internet service provider records, or banking records. These records require a court order to obtain due to their sensitive private nature. Usually a private investigator is not acting on behalf of a legal investigation or on behalf of the court so he is unable to obtain the court order or the records.

About the Author

Based in southern Virginia, Kristy Robinson has been writing for various websites since 2008. Her work focuses on tutorials and self-help articles. Robinson holds a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from American InterContinental University.

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