If you love watching those criminal movies on Netflix, chances are you’ve wondered what makes an investigator different from a private detective at some point. In fact, these two professions are so commonly intertwined that those unfamiliar with them would need clarification on whether they need to hire an investigator or detective. Here, we tackle their differences to help you distinguish one from the other:
- A criminal investigator typically works for a government agency, while a private detective works for a private individual or group. You’ll mostly see investigators processing a crime scene and doing tasks like gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses and suspects, pursuing criminals, and creating investigative reports that will be used in court. Private detectives, on the other hand, focus on tasks related to the case they’re handling or whatever the client needs. Since crime scenes are usually police jurisdictions, private detectives don’t process these scenes. Instead, they focus on the information gathered by investigators while at the crime scene.
- An investigator may focus on criminal caseloads like abduction, homicide, robbery, assault, and terrorism, but a private detective can handle just about any type of investigation. For instance, some clients will hire a detective to conduct background checks on potential candidates, gather more evidence about a case, follow cheating spouses or assist in proving someone’s guilt or innocence.
- Investigators usually have police authority, while private detectives don’t. The Bureau of Labor Statistics explains it perfectly that because they lack police authority, their work must be done with the same authority as a private citizen. Therefore, investigators and detectives must understand the concept of laws, specifically federal, state, and local, including privacy laws and other important legal matters that affect the nature of their job. Otherwise, the collected evidence may not be honored in court, and they could possibly face prosecution.
- All evidence gathered by investigators is admissible in court since they were done under police authority. But private detectives need to gather evidence following the law. If the court sees that they obtained evidence illegally, they will be held accountable, and all that evidence will not be accepted by the court during a trial.
- In most cases, investigators start their careers with the police force and eventually get promoted to detective duty after meeting certain qualifications and requirements. Investigators also undergo rigorous training in this job and even go through continuous education before they reach their status. On the other hand, a private detective doesn’t need to work for law enforcement, although some start their career in the police force. But most of these detectives have relevant education, skills, and experience in the law or criminal justice field, so they know exactly what they’re doing. These detectives may also undergo training to ensure they conduct investigations safely and fairly.
These are just some of the many differences between investigators and private detectives. But whoever you hire, you’ll know that you’re in good hands since these professionals are experts in their fields.