Key Differences Between PIs and Law Enforcement

For many people, the lines between a Greenville private investigator and a law enforcement officer are blurred. Both professionals are conducting investigations with the final object of establishing truth and exposing fraud.

However, there are significant differences between the way they operate and the nature of their activity. Let us look at the most important differences between a PI and a police officer.

1. The Nature and Objectives of the Work

Law enforcement officers conduct investigations to enforce laws, maintain public order, and bring wrongdoers to justice. They operate within a legal framework that gives them the right to conduct searches, perform arrests, and even use force when necessary. Also, their activity is primarily focused on criminal investigations.

A private investigator, on the other hand, uses their certification to conduct investigations on behalf of paying clients – businesses or individuals. They cover a broader range of cases, such as:

  • Divorce
  • Employment background checks
  • Process servers
  • Forensic accounting
  • Accident reconstruction.

PIs also operate within laws and regulations but with restricted rights. A private investigator cannot arrest anyone or access any property without the owner’s approval.

2. Authority and Power

Police officers and federal investigators have extensive powers granted by the state or their jurisdiction. Apart from arrests and searches, law enforcement officers can also:

  • Execute warrants
  • Seize evidence
  • Administer alcohol and drug tests.

They also have access to various databases of all types of other state and law enforcement agencies.

By contrast, a Greenville private investigator has limited rights. In fact, they do not have any special rights, just the ones granted to any US citizen. Thus, a PI can only access public records and databases. They must respect privacy rights and refrain from any intrusive or illegal methods of obtaining information.

a PI does not have the same rights as a police officer

3. Resources and Limitations

Law enforcement officers benefit from the assistance of state and federal agencies. They can access specialized forensic labs, experts, and crime investigation technology. Also, police officers and federal investigators have access to public funds and benefit from interagency cooperation with other countries.

Private investigators can only rely on their own resources. Thus, they have budget constraints, as well as limited access to labs and technology. However, skilled PIs develop a network of contacts, including various experts, who can help them in complex cases.

4. Reporting and Accountability

Law enforcement officers must follow strict protocols when it comes to:

  • Documenting facts
  • Reporting findings
  • Providing updates to superiors, prosecutors, and other competent parties.

They are accountable to the public, the justice system, and various government agencies. In most of the cases, the findings they report lead to criminal charges and become public as part of court records.

Meanwhile, private investigators are accountable only to their clients. They are bound to maintain confidentiality over their findings and the documents they prepare are typically not subject to public disclosure obligations. Also, their findings are used in making business and personal decisions or in civil court cases.

Discuss Your Situation with a Skilled Greenville Private Investigator 

Although a Greenville private investigator does not enjoy the same rights as a law enforcement officer in their activity, they can lawfully obtain a wide range of details and information. Whether you suspect your spouse of infidelity or your business partner of fraud, a skilled investigator can find out the truth in a lawful manner.

Call us today at 864-671-4040 and schedule a free consultation!



Reid Latham
Easy to talk with and does a great job! Very discreet and a pleasure to work with. They know what to do and how to do and when to do it.
Jesse McGeE
10 out of 10 great people and very professional. 5 stars all the way.
James Martin
From my experience of knowing the Hawkins family. If you want professional service and dependability try Upstate Private Investigators.