Private Investigator Cost Los Angeles
Like any other industry that provides you with a service, the price of PI can vary based on multiple factors. Private investigation cost is different in several different situations. Pricing in the service industry also relates to quality in most cases. Understanding the difference between too low and too high of a price can make a world of difference in your overall pricing if you hire a good private detective in Los Angeles.
A private investigator, or private detective, is an independent civilian who is trained and licensed in the state in which they reside to provide individuals or organizations with investigation services. These services often deal with civil or criminal matters and may include such tasks as surveillance, documentation, research, and much more.
How Much Should Private Investigation Cost in Los Angeles?
One of the factors that matter when talking about pricing with a private investigator is the amount of information you have for them to go off of. Starting at scratch will cost more than if you have a nice foundation for them to go off of. Initial details that help private investigators are name, address, previous employers, social security numbers, date of birth, etc.
Running into people with the same names is common in this line of work. The more information that a private investigator has to ensure that they have the right person, the deeper into the life of that person they can get. For this reason, rates are often contingent on the amount of information that can be provided. They may fluctuate, depending on the research needed.
Professional Background Searches
When asking for a background search, it is likely to be a flat-rate fee plus an additional hourly rate if the investigation branches off due to information uncovered. Pricing for the flat-fee is based on the depth of the background search. Thinking in terms of low to high, something like a simple address search will cost the least, whereas looking into a person’s entire background where the research focuses on financial fraud might get a little more costly.
For a good and thorough basic background search, you could be looking at a range of $350 to $900. The pricing will be contingent on the amount of information you hope to get from the background search. Anyone who offers you an extremely low or unbelievably high price should send you looking elsewhere for quality.
People hire private investigators to handle surveillance jobs all the time. However, the quality of the work they receive is often what they pay for. Anyone can claim to be able to hold a camera and get a couple of pictures, but the real deal in private investigation and surveillance will have licensing.
Surveillance is often assigned an hourly rate, including the media proof (photographs, video, etc.) that they gather during that time. The drive time and mileage may be something that is charged extra and should be discussed ahead of the job.
A starting rate should be at least $100 per hour if the private investigator is any good at their surveillance. The agency should also have a “minimum” number of required hours. Obviously, more established investigation firms will have the ability to request higher hourly rates because their work has already spoken for itself with past clients and successful cases.
Many general investigations are also an area that is charged hourly and not just a flat-fee. You may find a low-end range for general investigative services from $100 to $200 per hour. If the investigation requires the use of specialized expertise or more knowledgeable experts, your pricing could shoot up to over $500 an hour. In these instances, you are paying for the specialized approach, which tends to cost more than standard work.
People lie, especially about the assets they have when dealing with court cases. They lie, thinking that they can protect these assets. A good private investigator can find those assets and make sure they are presented in court as they should be.
Private investigators who are good at handling asset searches or asset location and recovery will likely cost a flat-fee, or they may charge an hourly rate. Cases like these are special circumstances because they can be as simple as locating a lost inheritance or as complicated as finding divisible assets in a divorce case (and everything in between). That is why most agencies handle these on a case-by-case basis.
PI Expert Testimony in Court
If a private investigation firm is legitimate, they will provide their clients with the option of using them in court as expert testimony. In most circumstances, private investigators charge hourly rates with a set number of minimum hours billed because the courts are one place where time is often unpredictable.
Depending on the specialization of the expert testimony required, rates may be as low as $150 per hour or as high as $550 per hour – rates are determined by the type of expert testimony required and the type of case.
The Fees Associated with Private Investigator Licensing in LA
The fees required when seeking out licensing in the state of California to be a private investigator comes in waves during the application process. Once the required experience or education training has been completed, the beginning of the licensing process starts.
Applicants are required to undergo a complete background check that includes the Live Scan Fingerprinting Application. The pricing of the fingerprinting application varies based on the form. There is one with, and one without a firearms permit included. The standard fee for a private investigator is $51, and with the firearms permit, it is $89. The fingerprinting scan is used to do a criminal background check. The receipt should be retained for inclusion in the application packet.
The amount required at the time you send in your private investigation application packet is $50 for standard private investigation or $130 for the private investigation licensing with the firearms permit included.
After taking the licensing exam, applicants must pay one more fee before receiving their license. If notified that the exam has been passed, a final licensing fee of $175 must be paid before the state will send the license to the recipient.
Additional PI Expenses
Once licensing is taken care of, the rest of the costs are what it takes to put together a practice. Whether you are forming your own practice, joining a practice, or working independently, the state of California requires all firearms carrying private investigators to have a minimum liability insurance policy of $1 million ($500,000 for a loss due to injury or death and $500,000 for loss due to property destruction).
What to Do Before Hiring a Private Investigator
To protect yourself in the process of hiring a private investigator, you should do your own investigative work before picking a detective. To achieve the best results as yourself these questions:
- What am I trying to accomplish by hiring a private investigator? What is the end goal?
- Is the investigator I am looking at licensed in California?
- Do they offer the specialties that will provide me with my goal?
- Is the pricing fair (not overly cheap or overly priced)?
When you choose the investigator that you want to work with to achieve your end goal, it is important to have a discussion about how fees work. Fees are an integral part of the process because they are what ensure that the work gets done.
Some private investigators may require a deposit or retainer that has to be paid before work begins. This is a common practice because it allows the detective funding to begin working immediately. You can consider it a “good faith” payment – you are trusting them by putting down a portion of the fee in hopes that they provide you with the results you want before paying them in full. They are trusting you to pay them in full once the work is done.
Like any other service industry, you should get your quote for the job in writing and make sure that any changes are communicated before being executed. Nobody wants to end up paying more than they had budgeted for the services they requested.
The final factor to keep in mind before you hire a private investigator:
If the pricing seems too good to be true (extremely low), chances are it is!
While some firms may run specialty pricing during the year, normal rates should never be a “discounted” price regularly. Extremely low rates should raise suspicion on the validity of the firm, their licensing, and their expertise.
Why Kay & Associates?
For premier private investigation services in Los Angeles, the only choice is Kay & Associates. Expert services come at the right prices and are admissible in court. Our friendly and knowledgeable investigators can handle a variety of cases that range from infidelity to digital forensics and criminal to civil investigations.
We want to talk to you about your case, which is why we offer a 15-minute case consultation over the phone for FREE. We don’t want you to have to worry about paying for a consultation or any other fees until you know we are the right fit for your investigation needs. Call us today or use our other methods of contact – email and online contact form. We look forward to hearing from you!