Probably one of the most common documents that you will ever come across with as a private investigator is someone’s criminal record. Many clients will ask you for this document in the course of your investigation, particularly if they want to hire someone for a job, obtain information about someone they will work with or start personal relations with. Since criminal records will be a critical component of your job as a PI, here are tips on how to use them properly and efficiently.
Take note of the extent of the violations
A minor driving infraction is not and will never be the same as theft or murder. When using criminal records in your capacity as a private investigator, carefully assess the type of violations you might find on the criminal record. Certain cases could only be misdemeanors and may not be considered as serious crimes or felonies.
Consider legal means
There will be times when you will be hired to sift through criminal records by a client, such as when they need to check on a potential job applicant’s background. There is a limitation regarding the extent to which you as a private eye can use these records. The Fair Credit Reporting Act will restrict your access to someone’s criminal records in case you’ll be investigating them for a job.
To comply with this Act, you should have the consent of the person before you can perform any background checks on them. This consent must be in written form. Make sure you have this because this will help you avoid any legal complications later.
Don’t be tempted by illegally obtained records either. Although criminal records exist in the county or state level, there is only one nationwide database for criminal records and that is the FBI database. This database is restricted and unless you are authorized, you cannot access any information contained here. A black market offering this information is present but don’t fall for it. If you get caught, you will be slapped by some heavy penalties.
Always practice total discretion
Some criminal records can be obtained by almost anyone online. There are companies that offer access to information on records of a person’s birth, address, marriage, divorce, bankruptcy, arrests and jail time. These are paid sites but many of them offer unlimited checks, which allow people to view other people’s criminal records, if such actually do exist.
However, as a private investigator, it’s your job to take good care that these criminal records are not viewed by anyone who has no business regarding the information. Make sure to respect owner’s right to privacy and be extra careful about handling these records. What information you might have should be kept between you and your client and should not be discussed with anyone else.
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