Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

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Answering Writers’ Questions About Private Investigators Investigating Kidnappings

Posted by Writing PIs on February 20, 2012

Today we’re answering a few writers’ questions about their stories where kidnappings occur and people hire private investigators. How might a U.S. private investigator get involved? What if the kidnapping occurred in another territory or country?

Writer’s Question: In my story, a 16-year-old girl is kidnapped and taken to Puerto Rico. Would an American PI have to check-in with the local police while searching for the missing girl in Puerto Rico?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: What if the PI visited Puerto Rico as a family friend? Personally, if we were contacted by someone who wanted to find a missing person in Puerto Rico, we’d go through our network to find a reliable, experienced PI in Puerto Rico and affiliate with that person. Our past experience has been 1-we can get into sticky legal situations if we go to another territory and 2-a local PI best knows the region, contacts, law enforcement, etc.

But for your story, perhaps you want your Florida PI-heroine to travel to Puerto Rico. Okay, back to her calling herself a family friend — that would work. Or, perhaps she does contact local law enforcement for advice, directions, or to let them know that she’s going to be doing things and visiting places related to the case, but she’s not a kidnapper herself. When we investigate cases in remote regions in Colorado, we always contact local law enforcement first (for their advice, directions, and sometimes just so they know we’re not suspicious characters).  But does your fictional PI have to contact law enforcement?  No.

Writer’s Question: What would happen if an American PI did not check-in with another country’s law enforcement and went about her business investigating?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoe’s Answer: She could be brought in for questioning although she probably wouldn’t be charged with anything unless she impedes that government’s or the U.S. federal investigations of the missing person. If the American PI is licensed in a state (currently, only five U.S. states do not require licensure for PIs) — we’re guessing that state regulatory agency wouldn’t care if she’s in another country unless she committed a crime there. But we’re guessing. It’s a good idea to contact the state professional private investigator association (for the state in which your fictional PI is licensed) and see what they say about your story scenario.

Writer’s Question: How would you know if the missing person case you’re working on has crossed paths with the FBI? Would information be closed off to you? Would they pay you a visit in some way?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoe’s Answer: The only way a PI is going to earn a visit from the FBI is if the PI interferes with the federal investigation. Yes, they would pay an in-person visit most likely.

Have a great week, Writing PIs
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