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Texas legislators went to bat for private investigators by creating a new law that makes impersonating a private investigator illegal. Texas currently regulates the private investigations industry through the Texas Department of Public Safety and has similar language on the books regarding licensure requirements. Texas investigators must have an active private investigator’s license and those acting as an investigator without a license will violate the new law.
Written and introduced by Representative Valoree Swanson in January 2021, House Bill 1400 was created to make impersonating a private investigator a Class A misdemeanor offense. The bill also enhances the penalty for a subsequent conviction of the offense to a third degree felony. The full text of the bill, which amends the Texas Occupations code, can be accessed online.
Although the anti-impersonation law was a new legislative move, licensure requirements have been in place prior to the passage of the bill as the requirements appear in the Texas Administrative Code and in the Texas Private Security Statutes and Rules, which both apply to private investigators.
To be a licensed investigator in Texas, individuals must meet strict educational requirements in addition to passing an exam and carrying appropriate liability insurance. The education requirements include completing one of the following options: three years of investigations-related experience; a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice or a bachelor’s degree in another field plus six months of investigations-related experience; or an associate degree in criminal justice (or related field) with an additional 12 months of investigation-related experience; or the completion of a private investigations course with a minimum of 200 face-to-face hours that is accredited by a four-year university or State of Texas.
Beyond the educational and insurance requirements, individuals wanting to become a licensed investigator must be over the age of 18, must not have a criminal record (charged or convicted), must be mentally competent, must not have been dishonorably discharged from the military, and must not be a sex offender (in any state). The Texas Association of Licensed Investigators (TALI) provides the complete breakdown of requirements on their website.
The legislative effort of HB 1400 was primarily welcomed by Texas private investigators, though the Texas Association of Licensed Investigators was not responsible for putting forth the bill, current TALI President Catherine Torrez said, “We applaud the efforts.”
Those who work as an investigator without the proper education and licensing not only take work from investigators who put forth the time, effort, and money to be licensed, but unlicensed investigators could also jeopardize the safety of clients. Texas investigator Rosanne Gustafson-Cottongame Kayl offered, “I am very glad this new law has finally passed. As licensed private investigators, we spend a lot of money on licensing and education as well as insurance, tools we need for our profession, and marketing. We lose work when the unlicensed act as investigators illegally.”
The anti-impersonation bill was sponsored by Senator Paul Bettencourt and gained traction when co-author Representative Briscoe Cain signed on in March 2021, with joint authors Representatives Tony Tinderholt, Leo Pacheco, and Alex Dominguez signing on in April and early May. At each stage, the bill passed unanimously. The bill was signed into law by Governor Greg Abbot on June 15, 2021, and finally went into effect on September 1, 2021.
Those interested in learning more about changes to laws and regulations regarding the requirements to be a private investigator in Texas are encouraged to stay up-to-date with the Texas Association of Licensed Investigators.
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