Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

A defense attorney & PI who also happen to be writers

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Answering Writer’s Question: Are There International Investigators?

Posted by Writing PIs on September 2, 2010

Today’s investigator typically works cases that involve tasks in other countries–maybe you’re asked by an attorney-client to serve a subpoena in another country, or you need to locate the whereabouts of someone who neighbors claim moved overseas, or you need to find a witness who’s left the country.  Most PIs sub-contract such investigative tasks to a PI licensed in that other country.  How to find PIs in other countries?  Most of us belong to international investigators associations, so it’s easy to look up the country and find a fellow PI who specializes in the type of work you need.

A writer recently asked a question about international investigations, which we’re posting below along with our answer.

Writer’s Question: I’d like to have my fictional PI specialize in international investigations.  How realistic is this? Are there PIs who specialize in this?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: In our experiences with international investigations, we will sub-contract with a PI/s in another country for work we need done there (from locating people to serving legal papers).  We have worked personally with a PI who specializes in international investigations–he has offices in L.A., New York, London, and another city or two in Europe.  When case work comes in for a locate in France, for example, he sub-contracts with a PI in that country.  One big reason that a PI doesn’t travel to different countries are the restrictions created by local licensing.  Even here in the U.S., we can’t travel to New Mexico (a neighboring state) and conduct investigations unless we’re licensed in that state (which we aren’t).  So we sub-contract with a PI from New Mexico when cases come up that require work in that state.

So with your story idea, a PI who specializes in international missing persons would most likely have an extensive network of PIs around the world with whom he/she sub-contracts.  It’s plausible that he might work with them (by flying to his associate PI’s country and working under that PI’s supervision).  Along those lines, we’ve had instances where a PI flies into our state and works “under our authority” for casework in our region/jurisdiction.  Or, your international PI might be licensed to work in different countries (it’d be surprising if he/she had licenses in more than three or four countries)–in this scenario, your PI doesn’t need to work under other PIs’ authority/supervision because he/she is licensed in that country.  Of course, this international PI needs to be conversant in languages for any countries he/she is licensed in (which you’ve probably already thought of).

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