Legal Question in Business Law in California

Licensing of Private detectives on the web.

What if any are the regulations related to licensing of private investigator`s on the internet ?

If someone has a website based in Virginia and someone in California visits thier website and places an order for a background check on someone... Does the website need a California license?

Is it true that no license is needed in any state as long as you do not advertise that you do such work?

Asked on 10/19/02, 4:26 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Timothy J. Walton Internet Attorney

Re: Licensing of Private detectives on the web.

The laws of the offline world generally apply online. Your question raises jurisdictional issues, as so much of Internet activity does.

But I am unclear whether you are talking about private investigation or merely a public records search. Further, I am not familiar with the licensing requirements of the fifty states when it comes to specifics about private investogators.

Read more
Answered on 10/21/02, 12:25 pm
Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law

Re: Licensing of Private detectives on the web.

First, it's my impression from cases I've looked at that the law examines substance, not form, in this arena. It isn't so much what you call yourself, it's what you do that counts, and using or not using the Web is in itself not so important.

In California, the business of 'private investigator' or 'private detective' is closely regulated and licensed. The provisions of law are found in the Business and Professions Code at sections 7512 through 7573.

If you do anything that comes under the Code's definitions, you need the license, and it makes no difference whether you use mail, telegraph, telephone, Internet, or all or none of the above to facilitate your activities.

You should read the Code sections and see whether you need to be licensed. They are available on line. If you have any doubt about the interpretation of the Code sections, consult an attorney.

I know there are many spam messages on the Web offering ways to find out about your friends, enemies, rivals, etc., and I suppose some of these are offering to set people up in a profitable investigating business. Much of what is touted does not constitute illegal activities nor anything requiring a license if done for your own purposes, but you may easily step over the line by doing it as an occupation. Furthermore, even doing amateur investigations for your own purposes could easily subject you to civil suits by the party investigated for invasion of privacy.

Read more
Answered on 10/21/02, 12:31 pm

Related Questions & Answers

More Business Law questions and answers in California