10 Years Experience
Been a private eye for 10 years. The job's not for everyone. If you love odd hours sipping coffee in a dark parking lot waiting for something to happen you should definitely jump at this job immediately. I get hired by spouses, employers, insurance companies, and you name it as well. Oh...and I field a lot of very interesting phone calls that even the most seasoned defense attorneys would raise an eyebrow at.
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Always follow your dreams. But make sure your dreams make financial sense and can give you stability over the long haul. The PI thing for me has been both a blessing and a curse at the same time. It kinda sucks you in, you get used to the freedom and there's always this thought in your mind that a payday is just a phone call away. I was ambitious once like you when I first started, but over the years the job weighs on you. I only know a handful of PIs that can show a profit year after year. A lot say they do, and a lot of detective schools preach you'll make $50 to $125 and hour. But if you're only getting a few cases a month, you'd be better off with a regular W-2 job doing just about anything else. The most successful PIs are the former cops and federal agents who have a nice pension. Those guys have the funds and resources for marketing their business, paying for internet ads and chumming up extra work from their old buddies with the department without worrying about the rent.
Of course, it happens to the best of us. Had this early morning L.A. case, set up super early so no one would see me, a bit of a tough part of town, didn't want any eyes on my vehicle rolling in with no one getting out of it. Followed this lady around town for two days, things seemed like they were going well. Got some video on her, but she wasn't doing much outside of her doctor's recommendations. She seemed too perfect. She never looked my way once and never acted suspicious. At the end of the second day as I was about to close up shop, her husband walks up to my vehicle and leaves a small little note under the wiper blades. You'll never guess what it said, "thanks for babysitting my wife". Gumshoe work can be quite humbling sometimes.
Yes. But you can't be too influenced by the client. The client may tell you the person you'll have under surveillance is the meanest nastiest smartest person on the face of the earth...doesn't mean it's all true. I've had to draw on my past experience to gauge if this is something I want to step into. Also, a lot of it's mostly perceived danger. Usually with PI work there's not too much physical danger, the idea is to be covert and not get involved. I go with my gut feeling. If it tells me to back off, I back off. I have no problem referring them to another PI who may be better suited for the assignment.
I really only know about CA, and don't have any insight in terms of who's who on the corruption list. I have had some fraud cases come my way for assignment. Since I do workers comp, I can attest to this, I've seen police and fire unions protect a lot of bad eggs, when I say bad, I mean personnel who really should be working but are instead on the injured list year after year making the same paycheck. Any organization that polices itself with little oversight tends to be headed for trouble.
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Some do. But you never bite that carrot. J.J. Gittes in the movie Chinatown may have been up to the task, but a modern PI has a lot of legal liability to ponder while he's sipping that java in his surveillance vehicle at o' dark thirty. It's 2015, there's a lot of under paid attorneys as well as hungry assistant DA's who would love to litigate a PI for any funny business.
Wow, Sherlock Holmes...that's quite the pinnacle in the industry. I'm not sure if I'm quite that noteworthy, but I will say this. I once had an assignment where I had to track down this business guy and serve him some federal papers for court. Pretty serious stuff when it goes to federal court...you don't fool around with that. So anyway, he had a bunch of properties in 4 different counties. I went to each different county, asking questions, turning over stones (big ones and small ones) just to find out where this guy was. None of the locations panned out. I felt like crap, plus I burned through most of my retainer already. So here I am, bummed out...sitting on the bed of my Motel 6 in the high desert, then all of a sudden it hits me. His father invested in a lot of his businesses and in one of the records I checked showed a cabin in the mountains as a mailing address he used quite a while back. It was pretty ancient, but my gut was telling me to go after it. If the mountain won't come to Mohammad, Mohammad must go to the mountain! So I head on up there, and boom....super slick looking Mercedes parked in the leafy driveway of the cabin. My heart is racing, I know this is my guy. Since I put this much effort into this assignment, I don't want him NOT answering the door. So I grab my construction hard hat, reflector vest and clipboard w/ the subpoena on it. Give a knock at the door, and walla...my guy is front and center. He was never more surprised in his life, he actually smiled a bit, and that really made my day. I shook his hand, said thank you Sir and gave a little smile of my own.
Yes. The most common is unlicensed activity in California. In California, someone who wants a PI license must have at least 6,000 hours of verifiable experience with a licensed PI firm or have law enforcement experience equivalent to that. I must say, I saw a lot of licensed firms hiring unlicensed contractors back in 2008-2012, when the economy was in the tank. I don't think it's as bad now, but it is a bit of an issue still, mostly because those unlicensed "investigators" tend to charge much less than the average industry rate. In all honesty, a lot of unlicensed investigator do a great job, they're ambitious and usually just want the case experience to get their own shop. But, they are in a sense taking away potential business from guys who have a legit license.
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