It is a scenario more common than you may think: a man or women may have a suspicion their partner is cheating on them. “I’ll get to the bottom of this!” They start trying to guess their password to their social media accounts or email; they try to break into their phone to check their text messages; they even go so far as to purchase a GPS tracking device to plant on their partner’s vehicle. So, what is the problem with all these ideas…? If you’re not registered by the Commonwealth of Virginia…they’re illegal.
Most states in the US require a private investigator to be licenses by the state. In fact, all but 10 states require this certification. In the Commonwealth of Virginia the agency in charge of these certifications is the Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). To become a licensed P.I. requires the applicant to take the required classroom time, pass a written and practical exam and pass a significant criminal background check. If you are able to pass all these hurtles, only then can you APPLY to get your certification as a private investigator.
So, what happens if I were to attempt to follow my partner when they left the house without them knowing? Simply: it’s called stalking…and it’s illegal. Breaking their unknown passcode to their computer or cell phone to monitor their text messages or emails…another term for this is hacking…and once again, illegal. The activity of legally following a subject is called surveillance and, when done by a licensed P.I., is 100% legal.
So what are the possible outcomes if I decide to follow my partner on my own? Biggest possible outcome: you could be arrested. Second, and possibly the more serious scenario, you are caught and may lose your relationship. Sometimes when there is suspicion of cheating it turns out to be a false alarm. It could be a misunderstanding or even that your partner is sneaking away to plan a surprise party for you. If you’re caught following them around, and end up blowing the surprise they’ve been working on, you’ll not only look foolish but may lose your relationship. Third option: you don’t do it correctly and don’t discover anything, whether it’s there or not.
Private investigators are licenses, trained and equipped to take care of these scenarios for you. A P.I. who is trained in surveillance and has the necessary equipment ready can be invaluable when it comes to getting the facts. And most importantly, they’re legally allowed to do it (within reason). Want to see what someone has been posting on their social media pages…hire a P.I.. Want to know what your wife is doing when she “has a night out with the girls”…? Hire a P.I..
Are all P.I.’s the same? Yes and no. Any private investigator who is licensed to work in Virginia is licensed by DCJS. But, many P.I.’s have their niche. Some specialize in criminal investigations and building a criminal defense. Some work with estates who have unidentified heirs. And some, like our firm, specialize in surveillance and family law. Family law includes everything from infidelity to child custody and surveillance is a big part of it. A good surveillance investigator is discreet but good at being Johnny-on-the-spot when it comes to finding the evidence that is present.
So, if you ever find yourself in a place where you are unsure or have suspicion that you may be in a unfaithful relationship, please do not attempt to be Magnum P.I. and follow them. Call a licensed private investigator and let the professionals do what they do best.