How Can Private Investigators Protect Their Files?

One of the most common questions that people are worried about before hiring a private investigator is whether the information provided by the investigator is privileged or confidential. The answer to this question is both yes and no. This is because any information passed on to a non-attorney client is not considered privileged and can be discoverable in court proceedings. Information that an investigator provides through an attorney offers some protection, but the attorney-client privilege and work-product protection does not always work. Let us look into this in depth

What is an attorney-client privilege?

The communication between an attorney and his or her client is considered to be privileged communication. This law is aimed at encouraging honest and complete communication between a client and an attorney. It does not matter whether the attorney in question has been hired or paid. A person only needs to seek advice from an attorney for the privilege to be active.

Do private detectives receive attorney-client privilege?

Usually, the attorney-client privilege is not extended to third-party consultants, which is the regular arrangement when hiring a private detective. However, in one situation the detective gets the attorney-client privilege, i.e., if the communication between the attorney and the detective is for the sole purpose of obtaining advice or discussing the strategy of a case at hand. This is a fine line, and the opposite party will challenge it at every opportunity. This is the reason that most of the attorney-investigator relationships are work-product for the attorney.

What is attorney work-product?

Most of the work provided by a lawyer will fall in the category of attorney work-product. By definition, this is a protection by privilege under a lawyer’s guidance of strategy, theory, notes and communication and from others. With the help of work-product protection, lawyers can prepare the case with the knowledge that the opposition party cannot have access to their files. This way, private detectives can protect their data.

What are private detectives?

Private detectives are people hired by individuals or groups to undertake investigatory law services. These investigators often work with attorneys in civil cases. Some work with insurance companies to investigate suspicious claims. They require licensing to become licensed private detectives in 42 states and some states they also need a city license. The only states that do not license private detectives currently are – Colorado, Mississippi, Idaho, South Dakota, Missouri, and Wyoming.

There are limitations to the rights of these private investigators, and they cannot surpass these rights. For instance, they are not allowed to trespass or tap private phone lines. There are many other such laws about the functioning of private detectives which you can also find online in many articles and blogs.

Most of the time private investigators are hired by suspicious spouses in divorce cases. Corporate clients can also hire them for finding out what their competitors are doing against them. At the same time, as mentioned above attorneys hire private detectives to conduct investigations about a civil case – for instance, a divorce case.