August 17, 2001

By Bob Stevens


Question: I'm aware that each state has its own licensing (or in a couple of cases non-licensing) rules for PI's, and that there are limitations on recognition of one state's licenses within another state. But are there exceptions to all this? That is, can PI's from at least some states operate--freely or otherwise--within at least some others without obtaining extra licenses?


You are correct that most (but not all) states license private investigators. There appears to be very little reciprocity between the states. According to my research, Louisiana will recognize an Arkansas license, and Florida has statutory authority to establish rules for reciprocal agreements with other states, but has not actually done so.

Most states simply donít want out-of-state PIís playing in their sandbox. They assume that an investigator from another state may not meet their own licensing and/or insurance requirements. In fact, even out-of-state law enforcement officers are usually only welcome when working in cooperation with local authorities.

Such turf protection often extends even to local jurisdictions. Iíve had police officers within California (where Iím licensed) get upset with me because I was working in their town without notifying them. On one occasion, a couple of law enforcement officers got in my face because I had the audacity to drive through their town with a loaded firearm in the car, even though I had a statewide permit. They felt I should have notified them in advance that I was going to be passing through.

Before working in another state, a PI might be wise to check with that stateís licensing authority to see what position they are taking, or to arrange to work with a local investigator. You may have to share your fee, but itís probably worth it to avoid trouble with the local authorities. I checked with a Nevada PI who told me his state has set up specific procedures for associating with a local licensed investigator. He said the penalty for an out-of-state investigator caught working in Nevada without obtaining a Nevada license or associating with a local licensee is $1,500 for a first offense.

On the other hand, one Arizona PI told me he has been working as a private detective for forty-three years and he would consider it restraint of trade for anyone to try to tell him he couldnít exercise his By-God Constitutional Right to follow a case anywhere it took him. I have to admit I can see some validity to his position. And as a private eye writer, I really like his attitude.

THROUGH A PRIVATE EYE DARKLY is a column dedicated to questions regarding private investigation. Please send questions to and please understand that Bob may not be able to answer each and every question though every effort will be made in that endeavor.

Denise Baton

Copyright © 2001 Robert A. Stevens