Now that private investigator licensing has been restored and implemented in Colorado, many investigators have begun the process of obtaining their Colorado licenses, and some are not quite sure if a license is a worthwhile credential, or a necessity for this profession. Several previous attempts at a mandatory PI license in the last 34 years had failed to convince Colorado legislators of the critical importance of licensing. In 2011, Colorado legislators finally agreed to pass a law that they felt was acceptable. Colorado, unlike every other state in the country, is unique in it’s licensing law in that it is a voluntary license. What this means is that every private investigator in Colorado has to make the individual decision whether to obtain a license. Some investigators are probably going to wait to see what type of benefits licensed investigators will have before they apply for a license of their own. Let’s take a look at the significance that licensing will have on the investigative profession in Colorado.
The first one is probably the most obvious reason for licensing. Every state with licensing, Colorado included, has statutes restricting licenses to individuals with criminal histories. Different states have different standards. An individual convicted of a felony will have a difficult time ever qualifying for a PI license in any state. Some states are more lenient with certain misdemeanor convictions, or the time that has passed since the misdemeanor conviction and the time of application for a license. Some states do not allow for any misdemeanor convictions at any point for an investigator to obtain and keep a PI license. Besides a background check, state licenses have an experience component for qualifying. States have differing experience provisions, so as a result some are more restrictive than others. By obtaining a license, an investigator can have the distinction of having met the minimum hours for obtaining the license.
As a business owner for a short 6 years, I’ve received many calls in that time span from colleagues across the country looking for a Colorado private investigator. Many of those colleagues, with mandatory licensing states, expect the same standard in a Colorado investigator, and would ask me if I was licensed. After explaining that there was no licensing in Colorado, many of those colleagues were shocked to hear of a lack of licensing standards. It didn’t take too many of those conversations for me to realize I needed to be licensed, regardless of Colorado previously having zero standards. My company obtained licenses in the states of Utah and Kansas. The reason for choosing those states was a practical one. Since my company’s main specialty is surveillance, I wanted to be licensed in bordering states. This way, if I was conducting a surveillance in western Colorado, my case wouldn’t be hindered with my subject crossing into Utah. Likewise if I was conducting a surveillance in eastern Colorado and the subject drove into Kansas. Mind you in my 10 years working as an investigator, I’ve only ever worked one case that originated in Utah, and one that originated in Kansas. It is the peace of mind of knowing that I can follow my subject from Colorado into Utah and Kansas that makes licensing in those states worthwhile. So what does a CO license mean for our colleagues across the country? It means they can readily find an investigator who has undergone similar licensing standards.
Another impact that licensing has for Colorado private investigators is in the legal based work that investigators are involved in. PIs are often hired to work cases that have a legal basis or purpose. Many times those cases will culminate in providing testimony in court or hearing. Licensed investigators can spend less time being qualified to provide testimony, by simply identifying themselves as licensed private investigators. Attorneys and their clients can likewise spend less time qualifying an investigator for their cases.
Another reason for a private investigator to be licensed is for records and database access. In Colorado, for example, there was previously no definition for a private investigator anywhere in Colorado statutes. As a result, there was nothing to distinguish private investigators from the general public. The only way that investigators typically identified themselves to records custodians and database providers was with business cards or business registration documents. There was the potential for an unscrupulous individual to deceptively identify themselves as a qualified investigator to obtain access to a desired record, or worse, gain access to an entire database.
So why should an investigator in practice voluntarily obtain a license when that person readily meets the state requirements and qualifications? A license serves as a credential, a recognition, a distinction, a designation that simply cannot be bypassed if that investigator is committed to being a professional. For those young, up-and-coming investigators that do not yet qualify for a license, the benefits of licensing will hopefully serve as a goal worth working towards. It is the responsibility of experienced, licensed investigators to guide new investigators towards the goal of obtaining their licenses and ensuring the future of this profession for generations to come.
For more information on Colorado’s private investigator licensing program, please visit http://www.dora.state.co.us/private-investigator/index.htm
To find a qualified professional private investigator in your area, please visit http://ppiac.org