How To Become a Private Investigator in Florida
Are you a natural problem solver with an eye for detail and a passion for uncovering the truth? If so, a career as a private investigator in Florida may be the perfect fit for you. Private investigators play a crucial role in conducting investigations, gathering evidence, and providing valuable information to individuals, businesses, and legal professionals. In this article, we will outline the steps you need to take to become a licensed private investigator in the state of Florida. But before we begin, let’s dive into the good and the bad of being a private investigator.
• You Get to Use Your Brain
If you enjoy making independent decisions and using your creativity to solve issues, you will love being a PI. While you will work under the supervision and direction of a sponsor while you are trainee, you will still enjoy a certain amount of decision-making freedom when you are working out in the field.
• Excitement…and Lots of It!
There will be many times when you will be bored in this job, especially if you go into surveillance investigations. But, the excitement that you will feel when you get that ‘money-shot’ (aka video footage of catching someone ‘in the act’) or when you crack your case, is something so overpowering and amazing, that it actually erases all your previous memories of being bored.
Bringing the truth to light comes with a feeling of intense satisfaction. You will have the opportunity to help families make crucial decisions that will change their lives, to help companies succeed by making decisions based on facts, and to assist individual in getting the justice that they deserve.
• Learn About Human Nature
The life experience you will gain while being a PI is something that will help you for the rest of your life. You will see things that most people have never even considered. You will talk to people who you would have never interacted with. This will make you into a knowledgeable and well-rounded person, who understands the human condition and is accepts the world as it is…instead of what it should be.
• Have Lots of Stories to Share
You will be the most interesting person at any party you go to. Why? Because everyone will ask you to share your PI stories. Although the cases PI’s work on are always to be kept confidential, you are able to share general details about a case, without naming anything or anyone specific.
• Finding a Sponsor
It is generally not easy to find an agency to sponsor you when you first start out. The reason behind this is because most small agencies don’t have the resources to train a new PI. Time is money and when you invest time in a trainee who decides they don’t want to be a PI anymore six months down the road, that investment is lost and the agency is back to square one. For this reason, it’s advised that new trainees apply to work for bigger, national companies. These larger companies have more resources to invest and are generally more open to hiring trainees with no experience.
• The Schedule
Do you enjoy spending time with family and friends? If you don’t, you’ll make a perfect PI. An investigator’s schedule usually includes night, weekends and all major holidays. PI’s work when the client wants them to work, not when they feel like working. This means that you may be called out on an assignment with an hour notice. Private investigation agencies that do any type of domestic work are notorious for this type of schedule. Agencies that specialize in Worker’s Compensation cases may also have a similar schedule. The main exceptions to this is if you work for a law firm. Law firms are usually on the 9-5 schedule. It’s also important to note that while you’re a trainee, it’s imperative that you have an open, flexible schedule. Your sponsor will be unlikely to tolerate you turning down assignments.
• The Instability
Unless you secure full-time employment with a large agency, you will have to work for a few smaller agencies – not just one! Most small agencies can’t guarantee you full-time work, so it will be up to you to find a few part-time jobs that you will have to juggle. If you’re a trainee, this is especially important, since you will need to prove that you are working 40 hours per week for 2 years in order to obtain your private investigator license.
• The Danger
As a private investigator, you will work have to work cases in bad neighborhoods, sometimes at night. If you will work surveillance, you will be required to follow people without being seen. Any investigator worth their salt will tell you that they’ve been busted a few times in their career. You might be confronted and put into the position of having to defend yourself. It is wise to have some defensive tactics skills and to also have firearm training. It is also wise to keep all your private information confidential, which means that social media accounts that show your real name and photos are a big no-no.
• The Surveillance Boredom and Frustration
As a surveillance investigator, you will spend many, many hours sitting in your vehicle, while staring at the subject’s door or vehicle. Your back will hurt and your legs will fall asleep…guaranteed! Let’s not forget about having to urinate in a bottle if you’re a male, or a Zip-Lock bag if you’re a female. Your lunch will most likely be whatever you have in your cooler. You will be hot and very bored! Services like Audible will be your best friend. But, once your subject moves, the excitement will begin. Unless you lose them at a red light! This is where the frustration sets in. There’s nothing more annoying than waiting for the subject to move for 4 hours, only to lose them a few minutes into the action.
Now that we’ve discussed the good and the bad, let’s jump into the steps involved in beginning your private investigator career.
Decide on the type of investigations that you would like to do. There are many types of investigations and each entail unique skills, capabilities and work experience. If you’re interested in surveillance, you have to be able to sit in your vehicle for long periods of time (sometimes more than 10 hours per day) and follow the subject to their destination. Individuals best suited for these types of investigations are usually patient people with a calm disposition, who do well with multi-talking and are quick on their feet. If you’re interested in criminal investigations, you would need to either have experience in the Criminal Justice field or have some type of formal education in the subject. Criminal investigators usually work one-on-one with attorneys and spend most of their time interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence for trial. Strong interviewing skills are a plus for this type of job, as is the ability to build rapport with people in order to collect information. Once you decide on the niche you’re interested in, you can proceed to Step 2.
Look up investigators in your area and find out what kind of investigations they do. When you find one who specializes in the niche you’re interested in, give them a call and ask them if you can shadow them for a day or so. Some investigators may not go for it, being that their work is confidential and also because their insurance won’t cover you being out in the field with them, but you might get lucky. If they say no, ask them to talk to you on the phone about their job. Most people love talking about themselves, so you might get some very helpful info!
Step 2 is very important and it’s highly advisable that you do not skip this step! The reason behind this, is because what you see on TV or read in books about private investigators is not an accurate picture of what the job entails. What you probably know so far about investigators from the media is most likely a glamorized version of reality. It’s also important to keep in mind that you might need a sponsor (see Step 3) and building a relationship with a private investigator might lead to them employing you or at least referring you to another PI who can sponsor you.
Look up Florida Statute 493 and read Part II. This is the statute that governs private investigator licensing. All the requirements for licensing are listed there. When you finish, go to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website and look up private investigator licensing. This is where you will find all the necessary application forms.
By this point, you will understand that in order to work as a private investigator, you will need a license. The only exemptions to licensing are:
• “In-house” investigators who are solely, exclusively and regularly employed as an investigator in connection with the business of an employer who does not advertise or provide investigative services for a fee;
• Active law enforcement officers while engaged in their official duties;
• Insurance investigators or adjusters licensed by the Florida Department of Insurance;
• Those who exclusively furnish investigative information about the financial standing, habits and responsibilities of applicants for insurance, indemnity bonds or commercial credit;
• Attorneys in the regular practice of their profession;
• Banks, credit unions, loan companies and consumer credit reporting agencies;
• Persons holding professional licenses in Florida when providing expert advice in their professions; and
• Those providing investigative services solely and exclusively for any United States agency.
To summarize, the only way around needing a PI license is if you work in-house for a law firm or an insurance agency. Otherwise, if you plan on doing private investigator work in Florida, you will need to apply for either a C license (also known as a private investigator license) or a CC license (aka private investigator trainee license). In order to apply for a CC license, you will need to find an agency who will sponsor you. You will have to complete a 40 hour course and take a test. The curriculum typically covers various topics, including legal and ethical considerations, surveillance techniques, report writing, and evidence gathering. You will send the completion certificate to the State with your completed CC application. It is advised that you find a sponsor first, before investing in the course. You can find a list of certified schools that offer the course here: https://www.fdacs.gov/content/download/7470/file/DOE_C_CC_SCHOOLS.pdf
Once you submit the CC application and are issued your license, you will be required to show proof of working 40 hours a week for 2 years, in order to obtain your C license. Your sponsor will send in progress reports to the State, informing them on how many hours you worked.
You may apply directly for your C license if you have two years of lawfully gained, verifiable, full-time experience, in the following:
• Private investigative work or related fields of work that provided equivalent experience or training;
• College coursework related to criminal justice, criminology or law enforcement administration, or successful completion of any law enforcement-related training received from any federal, state, county or municipal agency, except that no more than one year may be used from this category; and
• Work as a Class “CC” licensed private investigator intern. This internship is done at a licensed private investigative agency.
If you have the 2 years of experience, you will be required to take a test and submit the proof that you passed the test to the State.
Speak to your sponsor and ask them what type of equipment you will need for the job. While you’re waiting for your application to be approved, start shopping around for the necessary equipment. At the very least, you will need a video camera, so it’s always good to find one that you’d like to buy and be ready to purchase it once your application is approved.
Conclusion: Becoming a private investigator in Florida requires meeting specific requirements, obtaining the necessary training, passing an examination, and possibly having to find a sponsoring agency. Being a private investigator is a rewarding career path for individuals who possess strong analytical skills, attention to detail, and a passion for uncovering the truth. If you have made it this far in this article without yawning, fidgeting or rolling your eyes, you have the patience and laser focus of a true PI! When you are ready to embark on an exciting journey in the field of private investigations, follow the steps outlined in this article and they will set you on the path to success in Florida.