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South Dakota Pushing New Licensing Bill for Private Investigators

  • February 03, 2011
  • by PInow Staff

The number of states that don't require private investigators to be licensed may soon drop to four.

South Dakota has introduced HB-1138, which would require all private investigators to get licensed, whether they operate a solo practice or work for others. Keep reading to find out more about what it will potentially take to become a licensed private investigator in South Dakota.

Minimum licensing requirements
In order to gain a license, the proposed bill states that the person needs to meet the following criteria:
Be at least 21 years of age;
Be a citizen of the United States;
Not have been convicted of a crime in any jurisdiction, if the secretary determines that the applicant's particular crime directly relates to the applicant's capacity to perform the duties of a private detective and the secretary determines that the license should be withheld to protect the citizens of South Dakota;
Be employed by or have an employment offer from a private detective agency or be licensed as a private detective agency;
Submit a set of fingerprints; and
Pay the required fee established by the secretary, which will not exceed $250
Pass an examination determined by the secretary to measure the person's knowledge and competence in the private detective agency business; or
Have had at least three years' experience in investigative work or its equivalent as determined by the secretary
The language in this bill defines a year of experience as not less than two thousand hours of actual compensated work performed before the filing of an application.

Pre-licensing training and testing
The secretary will work with the private investigation industry and law enforcement to establish pre-assignment training and testing requirements. According to the proposed bill, the requirements will include a minimum of four hours of classes. If a person can prove that he or she has already met the training requirements or has been employed as a private detective for at least 18 consecutive months before applying for a license, that person will be exempt.

The secretary may also work with professionals in the industry to establish continuing education requirements to maintain a license.

Surety bond or adequate insurance
In addition, private investigators must obtain a $50,000 surety bond. In lieu of a security bond, a licensed company must have at least $100,000 worth of general liability insurance for personal or bodily injury and $25,000 for property damage.

Penalty for working without a license
Anyone caught performing private investigator functions, operating a private investigator firm without a license, or employing an unlicensed person who performs private investigator duties will be committing a Class 1 misdemeanor.

What others are saying
The response to the proposed bill - which you can read at - so far on PInow.coms social media groups has been largely supportive. Private investigators in licensed states tend to feel that South Dakota will benefit from licensing because it will weed out the people who are unqualified and potentially harming the industry. Here are a few responses from some of our LinkedIn group members:

I believe that every state should make it mandatory. In North Carolina they supposedly do not allow it but when someone is caught doing it, they just tell them to stop. They do nothing after that even if they continue. Too many people are being mislead and defrauded these days. If you're going to do the job you should be licensed.
- William Ratcliff

Responding from a state that does not require licensing of PIs here is the downside. We (Idaho) are starting to see each city requiring PI agencies to be licensed to work in their city. Each city requires you to obtain (purchase) a PI license. And a surety bond for each city (I already have the insurance; that isn't a problem). My response, my business is in another city, my client is not in their city, but I follow a subject on an insurance case into their city. According to each city licensing agent my agency has to be licensed in their town to "track" a subject once he/she has entered their town. I would much rather see the state require the license and the bond, so I don't have to keep adding to my expenses just to stay in business. I work 20 different towns, times that with a $50,000 surety bond for each town and $250 per town license.
- Stuart Robinson

In New Hampshire we are required to be licensed whether you are solo or an employee. There is a discounted rate for employees. The cost for an agency and solo is the same, you just have to be registered with the Sec. of State as a company. We are required to be bonded as well. This past year we pushed for major reforms that will standardize several of the areas in the profession as well as set up an advisory board that will be appointed by the Governor and serve under our licensing agency - the Department of Safety. There are pros and cons to everything but we wanted to push for professionalism and we found that licensing helps with that. When unlicensed activity is noticed we presently notify the Dept. of Safety but it will go to the advisory board in the future which hopefully will be followed through on. We are in a new legislative session and are trying to make some adjustments to the law. It was a great step in the right direction.
- Quentin Estey

I think its great. It adds credibility to the industry, it weeds out many who shouldn't be "attempting to work a case" AND it adds a degree of responsibility to the investigator to protect the industry and clients. Albeit the licensing issue comes around when someone gets burned for fees they paid, or the complaint list gets high with the states consumer protection group.
- Mitch Davis

Want to share your response to this proposed bill or start your own discussion on industry-related topics? Visit our LinkedIn Group today to join in our online communities of private investigators.

Have news from your state? Send it to [email protected] and we will include it in an upcoming Weekly News Round-up. You can also request to receive our monthly e-mail reminder asking for your private investigator news.

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