Can Professional Investigators Operate Across State Lines?

Throughout our many years in business, Barefoot Professional Investigations has found that the professional investigator’s trade can get as complicated as life itself. The course of an investigation isn’t always a linear process that goes neatly from point A to B to C, and it’s our responsibility to follow the evidence where it goes — even when it takes us far from home. That’s especially true in investigations where the subject or the activity in question covers multiple states. 


Why Investigations Go Out of State

Investigations spanning multiple states are more common than you’d think. Even though we provide computer forensics in Charlotte, for instance, the source of a computer hack may be operating in another jurisdiction altogether. And it’s not just computer crime, since domestic disputes can cross state lines when a partner or spouse moves out of state, tracking down birth parents can be a long and circuitous process, and even something as simple as an employment background check can involve someone who’s recently moved to North Carolina from somewhere else.


Reciprocity: the Benefits and the Challenges

So can we go out of state if the investigation calls for it? And what if you’re not even from North Carolina, but you need something investigated in the Charlotte area and you’re wondering whether to reach out to Barefoot Professional Investigations or someone local? It gets a bit complicated.

Here’s why: there’s no such thing as a federal PI license. Licensure is up to the states, and like anything else that’s left up to the states, licensing requirements and the capabilities they bring with them can vary widely from one place to the next. Some things remain consistent; we can’t impersonate law enforcement, and we’re still subject to some federal laws (like the Fair Credit Reporting Act) for background checks and other activities. But other rules and regulations to which we’re subject, from surveillance and wiretapping to the regulatory hurdles around public records, can be very inconsistent.

The picture is even more complex when it comes to reciprocal agreements, the practice of one state honoring another state’s licensure. The professional investigator needs to know and follow the laws of the state in which they’re working, and follow them to the letter. But there’s more, since reciprocal agreements come with an expiration date. If someone comes to NC from Tennessee, for instance, they can ply their trade here for thirty days. But if we’re going to TN to follow up on a lead, we’re limited to fourteen days. Furthermore, not all states have these reciprocity agreements in place.


Finding the Right Private Investigator

If this sounds complex, it is. But for an experienced private investigator, it just takes advance planning, a bit of research into the relevant laws, and the discipline to follow them — none of which has ever posed a problem for us.

It’s a bit more complex for our clients, but we’re here to help with that as well. If your investigation will involve a state that doesn’t honor our license, you’d need another investigator on the ground in that area. In other cases, it’s a matter of understanding the contours of the investigation so that the investigation opens where the majority of the activity will take place; after all, you don’t want someone to rush things because the clock is ticking. In order to navigate these challenges, reach out to Barefoot Professional Investigations for a confidential consultation. We’ll determine if we’re the right fit under the circumstances, and help to steer you right if it turns out your interests are best protected by opening an investigation elsewhere.