When people think of private detectives, any number of images from TV, movies and books come to mind. Maybe it's the fedora-festooned detective clouded in cigarette smoke or the intrepid young sleuth tracking down clues. No matter the image, private investigators are real, and people being followed by one need to know their rights.
What is a Private Investigator?
A private detective, or private investigator, is hired by private parties to investigate on their behalf. Most states require that a private detective be licensed, though the requirements vary. Private investigators s are typically employed to track down missing persons, or find stolen or missing property. They can work independently or be employed by detective agencies or security companies.
What Private Investigators Do
A private investigator can do exactly what you can do: anything legal. Private investigators are not agents of the state and cannot do the same things police or other law enforcement agents do. They cannot trespass on private property nor can they hold themselves out as police or attorneys to gain access to someone's financial or telephone records. They cannot make arrests, unless they are allowed to do so under a state's citizen's arrest laws. Generally, private investigators are aware of the laws governing their actions. When conducting surveillance, for example, they tend to stay in public areas. They try to find information that is available to the public, or find out anything they can in a legal way.
You're Being Followed
You can gather as much information on a private investigator as they gather about you. You can follow him or have him investigated as far as the law allows. If he violates the law, you can file a police report or file to have a restraining order imposed. What the requirements are for having such orders imposed vary from state to state, however, and being uncomfortable with the idea that someone is following you around is probably not enough to have a restraining order approved by a court. If they damage your property or interests, you can sue them in civil court for damages or injunctive relief. However, if they do nothing that is illegal, you have little recourse against them. They can no more stop you from acting legally anymore than you can stop them.