A private investigator or private detective is a civilian employed by a company or person to investigate “subjects” of a client. The “subject” is usually a person or people, but it can also be a company. The client can be an individual, a corporation, and even a government agency.
Oscar Armenta, Bachelor of Criminal Justice Administration, with a minor in Sociology from the State of San Diego, Master of Forensic Science from the National University and 13 years of experience in law enforcement as a detective and detective supervisor, has been part of the San Diego police department, so he has first-hand experience on the role of a private detective.
Private investigators are experts at tracking information. They work for a variety of clients who want facts and evidence to resolve legal issues, financial disputes, and personal matters.
In fact, private investigators have traditionally dealt with all sorts of cases and have used established investigative methods to review public records, conduct interviews, and conduct surveillance to find facts. However, as cases and legal issues become increasingly complex, the field has become more specialized and various types of private investigators have emerged.
Oscar Armenta has a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration, a major in Sociology from the state of San Diego, a master’s degree in Forensic Science from the National University and 13 years of experience in law enforcement as a detective and detective supervisor, tells us the aspects and answers the most frequently asked questions about private investigation.
What is the role of a private investigator?
The first thing is to understand what private research is all about. A private investigator is hired to inspect the actions or whereabouts of a person or company. The most common types of investigations include theft, fraud, custody disputes, infidelity, and search for missing property or persons.
To conduct their research, researchers use surveillance and investigative research techniques, such as public databases and internet searches, asset searches, background checks, jump tracking, video and audio surveillance, photo taking, use of GPS tracking, TSCM services, and personal observation.
In many cases, private investigators will work with attorneys in civil and criminal cases to bring someone to justice. Most of the work they do is done covertly, providing their clients with maximum confidentiality.
What is the research process like?
That really depends on the type of case you have. According to Oscar Armenta and his experience in the San Diego police department, we can start by making two great distinctions. The types of work you’ll do will fit into one of these categories:
Cases involving the legal system
Cases involving requests from clients outside the legal system
Client requests that do not involve the legal system
These types of assignments are usually initiated by individuals and are not necessarily connected to the legal system. Examples of case types in this category include:
Missing Persons: Your client could be looking for a long-lost friend, someone who owes you money, a runaway spouse, or your missing teenager who left town.
Cases involving suspected infidelity: Your client may want confirmation for personal reasons that their spouse is having an affair. If your client wants you to gather evidence to file in court to justify a divorce application, this means that the case now involves the legal system.
When you have these types of assignments, it’s important to have clear and direct communication with your client to know exactly what they want. As a good researcher, you will give your client a direct and realistic assessment of how you can deliver and what your client can expect.
Although these cases may not involve the legal system at first, it is a good idea to have a general understanding of the applicable laws because it can ultimately end up in a courtroom.
Cases involving the legal system
These types of assignments involve conducting an investigation to gather evidence to present in a courtroom or other formal legal proceeding. When you start out as a private investigator, these are probably the most common types of cases you’ll be working on. For these, it is imperative that you understand the laws that apply to your case.
Examples of clients dealing with these types of cases are:
Government research agencies
Companies with fraud or loss prevention department
Understanding how the law applies to these types of cases determines the level and quality of evidence you must obtain to be successful for your clients. You can also determine how you get this evidence.
The main goal is to explain the industry in general and what it’s like in general when you’re new and just starting out. This is important to demystify what people think it is really to be a private investigator versus what they think and see in the media, on TV, or in movies.
Oscar Armenta has mentored more than 50 police officers, agents, detectives and sergeants, so that, through his seminars and workshops, he has been able to train people in the area of security.