Yes. Any person or firm conducting business involving investigations needs to be licensed by the State of Michigan.
Yes. Licensed Private Investigators in Michigan are required by law to keep all matters confidential. In fact, even with a court order or warrant, they cannot disclose or turn over privileged communication.
No. It is against both Federal and State law to tap a phone. No licensed private investigator in the USA can tap a phone legally.
First, you will discuss your case either on the phone, by email or in person at the private investigator’s office. Keep in mind that a private investigator that is experienced and has been in business for awhile has heard almost every type of case imaginable. Do not be shy or embarrassed, since what you are telling him, he has probably heard a million times before. Do not “forget” to tell him certain facts (such as the fact that someone took a personal protection order out on you), and make sure you are 100% truthful. Remember, a private investigator licensed in the State of Michigan cannot discuss your case with anyone!
Next, you will generally be required to fill out some paperwork. This may include a “retainer” agreement or other similar forms. These forms will become part of your case file. They will remain confidential forever. The purpose of these forms is to outline what is expected of the agency you hire and what is expected of you. It also covers the agency as it relates to things like “permissible purposes” or the legal reason you want someone or something investigated. For instance, if you were to hire a private investigator to find and “old friend”, and it was later found out that the person you wanted found was not in fact your “old friend”, but someone you have been stalking, the private investigator would be covered because he made a reasonable inquiry as to why you wanted this person found. You will have to state your reason in writing as to why you are hiring the agency, and it must be a legal and legitimate reason.
The next step is usually where you provide details of the person you want investigated. This might include a name, vehicle type, license plate, date of birth, place of employment, etc. A picture is also helpful. The more information you have, the better. Every small detail could be used to solve your case. The private investigator will generally go over the paperwork you have filled out and will ask you certain questions as they relate to your case. He will take notes for his recollection. He will then ask when you think the best time to begin the case may be. You will both agree upon a start time and this will be noted in your case file.
The final step will be method of payment. Some private investigators only accept cash. Others accept checks, credit cards, or even trade for services if you have some type of service you can offer.
Some other things to think about:
1. If someone says they are a “private investigator” and they do not have a legitimate business location, be extra cautious. Many people have been ripped off by non-licensed (and even some licensed) private investigators that want to meet them at the local Big Boy’s restaurant to discuss the case. Usually this is the sign of a rip-off. If you decide to go this route, ask them to produce their “Michigan Private Detective License Holder ID” card. This card will have their picture and the name of their company on it. It will also have the State of Michigan seal and will be signed by the Director of the Bureau of Commercial Services. It will also include the state license number assigned to them and the expiration date. Do not accept just a business card as proof that a person is licensed. Make sure they show you their ID card.
2. Do not tell a private investigator that you are going to hurt, harm or kill the person that you want investigated. If you do this, a private investigator my not take your case and even worse, they may notify the authorities. You can tell a private investigator in Michigan things that you have done in the past, even if they are illegal, and he cannot tell anyone and can not even be called to testify against you (like attorney-client privilege). But, if you tell him that you are going to do something illegal, this protection does not apply. This includes things like: tapping phones, breaking someone’s kneecaps, engaging in extortion, etc. If you have any of these things in mind, do not attempt to hire the private investigator. Better yet, you may want to hire a good criminal defense attorney.
3. If you tried to “investigate” the case on your own (tried to follow a spouse in your friends’ car) and were caught, make sure you tell the private investigator. You may elect to “forget” to mention this to him, however, it will make the case much more difficult and other options may be available. If you “forget” to mention these things it will only cost you more money in the long run.
You should contact the State of Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth for current requirements. Generally, you will need either a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from a four year accredited university, or you must have been a full time law enforcement officer for at least four years.