Alabama PIs Fight for License Legislation
- April 11, 2013
- by Shane Jones
Editor's note: This article was written by an industry professional and guest contributor. The views and opinions in this article are of the author and do not reflect the views of PInow. If you are interested in becoming a guest contributor, send an email to [email protected].
If the bill is passed . . .
- All Alabama investigators will need to be licensed
- Working without a license will be a Class A misdemeanor
- The Alabama Private Investigation Board will be formed and required to monitor the profession, educate and direct licensees, and sustain itself without taxpayer funding.
For full details, download HB197
Alabama PIs Fighting for License Legislation
The Alabama Private Investigators Association first approached the state’s Legislature in 2004 to create a licensing system. Their efforts were continuously ignored. But this year, the bill is as close to a vote as it’s ever been.
The bill, HB197, is currently in the House and is sponsored by Rep. Howard Sanderford, R-Huntsville. Acceptance of the bill would create the Alabama Private Investigation Board. The new organization would be responsible for monitoring, educating and directing state PI licensees. It would be a self-sustainable effort, funded and supported by private investigators for private investigators, not taxpayers.
Right Now, Anyone Can Be an Alabama PI
Currently, anyone in the state can call themselves a private investigator. If this bill were presented and passed, the board would be able to empower private investigation professionals to fill board vacancies, implement an application system and establish educational and experiential requirements. They would also be able to create rules and disciplinary measures for licensees and non-licensees. The board could also launch the Alabama Private Investigator Board fund with the State Treasury.
Not only will a governing board legitimize the PI profession, it will allow for the supervision of individuals who are privy to sensitive information like social security numbers. It’s scary to think that anyone who has a PI title can open up for business and collect personal data and money from clients. A regulatory board would be able to moderate and discipline licensees who misuse such sensitive data even fo things as typical as dating scams. Non-licensees would also be punishable.
If this bill were presented and passed, the board would be able to empower private investigation professionals to fill board vacancies, implement an application system and establish educational and experiential requirements. They would also be able to create rules and disciplinary measures for licensees and non-licensees.
In Alabama, a private investigator license and board would be comparable to the state’s Real Estate Commission. This commission governs real estate agent licensing and requires license renewal every two years. The commission is responsible for governing both licensed real estate professionals and those who practice without being properly licensed. The commission is able to impose fines on licensees and also has the power to suspend and revoke licenses.
Industry Regulation Builds Credibility and Protects Consumers
Similar to Robert Orozco’s discussion about the significance of Colorado’s new voluntary PI licensing program, the Alabama Private Investigator Board would establish standards and credentials for both the PI industry and individual licensees.
“Investigators already get a poor or misinformed reputation in part because of sensationalism in books, television and movies,” aspiring Alabama PI Williesha Morris wrote in an opinion article on AL.com. And unfortunately, this stigma is also applicable in real life.
Morris cited a case against Michael Anthony Allen, who was hired as a PI in Alabama at Baldwin Legal Investigators. Allen tricked his employers and hid several felony convictions by providing a fake social security number. He then allegedly stole more than $23,000 from the company.
What Are Other States Are Doing?
Alabama isn’t the only state without a PI license regulation. Alaska, Idaho, Mississippi and South Dakota also lack PI licensee requirements. However, these states do require business licensure through their Departments of Revenue.
Although 45 other states require PI licenses, there isn’t a nationwide standard regulation model. Some licensees are governed by local municipalities and others by statewide organizations. States like Colorado offer a voluntary license to professionals. Educational and professional requirements (like documented law enforcement experience) also vary by location.
The Alabama State Capitol Building
Help Get the Bill Passed
Support for the establishment of the Alabama Private Investigator Board is imperative to the bill’s success. Without your expressed concern, the bill may once again go unnoticed and ignored. To encourage the state’s lawmakers to present and pass the bill, please contact Alabama’s legislators.
Not only will a governing board legitimize the PI profession, it will allow for the supervision of individuals who are privy to sensitive information like social security numbers. It's scary to think that anyone who has a PI title can open up for business and collect personal data and money from clients.
To view the draft, download HB197.
About the Author
This article was written by contributor Shane Jones, who represents Wymoo International, an international private investigator company that specializes in background checks, dating background checks, global asset searches, and international due diligence.
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