Loose laws for Alabama private investigators - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Loose laws for Alabama private investigators

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By Jeanie Powell - bio | email
Posted by Dana Franks - email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - People who hire private investigators are sometimes at their most vulnerable. They're often in a situation where they might wish they weren't, and they want answers to sensitive questions.

One man in the business wants state lawmakers to pass a bill that would eliminate con artists in his trade who prey on clients' weaknesses.

Bill Posey is CEO of Posey Investigations. He said television and movies sometimes give his industry a bad name, but he hopes new legislation will clean up that image in a state that doesn't regulate who has the right to secretly get you information.

Auto accidents, extramarital affairs, missing persons and dogs, and custody battles are at the center of many PI investigations. Since 1996, Posey's career has revolved around secrecy.

But the private investigator isn't keeping quiet about a bill making its way to the state legislature. It would regulate and license the practice of private investigation, create a board to oversee such practices, and would make it a crime for a private investigator to work without a license.

"In Alabama, it is harder to get a fishing license or a hunting license," Posey said.

Posey said getting a PI's license doesn't take much.

"You give them $150, which is the annual fee; you could be out on bond and get a license," he said.

Posey told WAFF 48 News that Alabama's loose laws have opened the door for some shady characters who steal from clients and give the industry a bad rap.

"We're laughed at by other states," he said. "When we say we do private investigations in Alabama, they just laugh at us because they know we don't have any requirements. There's no background checks."

In a business where what happens behind closed doors can be someone's worst enemy, Posey said he wants lawmakers to know that this bill needs to pass.

A legislator who can relate to concerns Posey brought up to the Madison County Legislative Delegation at a Monday night forum is state Rep. Mike Ball - a former investigator for the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.

Ball, who represents the 10th District, said, "I can think of a couple of cases in murder investigations when the victim's family would hire a PI and all they would do was just take their money."

Ball said in some cases unqualified PI's can cross the line between what's legal and what's not.

"I have a lot of retired police investigators that are very concerned about that issue," he said. "It's something that's long overdue in Alabama."

State Sen. Del Marsh, a Republican representing parts of Calhoun and St. Clair counties, is the legislator sponsoring the bill.

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