Is skip tracing legal?
Yes. Depending on your state laws.
Each State has different laws that govern professional occupations. While it may be legal to perform skip tracing duties in one state, it would clearly be a violation to do so in another.
What is skip tracing?
Skip tracing is defined in many ways. Let’s take a look at some published definitions…
States that regulate skip tracing:
ALABAMA PRIVATE INVESTIGATION REGULATORY ACT
License Required to Skip Trace: NO
Regulatory Agency: State of Alabama Private Investigator Board
Agency Website: https://www.apib.alabama.gov/default.aspx
Section 34-25B-1. Short Title.
This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the “Alabama Private Investigation Regulatory Act.” (Act 2013-306, § 1.)
Section 34-25B-2. Definitions.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the following meanings:
(1) FELONY. A criminal offense that is defined and punishable under the laws of this state, or an offense committed outside the State of Alabama, which if committed in this state, would constitute a felony under Alabama law; a crime in any other state or a crime against the United States which is designated as a felony; or an offense in any other state, territory, or country punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.
(2) PRIVATE INVESTIGATION. The compensated act of any individual or company engaging in the business of obtaining or furnishing information with reference to any of the following:
a. A crime committed or threated against the United States or any state or territory of the United States.
b. The identity, habits, conduct, business, occupation, honesty, integrity, credibility, including, but not limited to, the credibility of a person giving testimony in a criminal or civil proceeding, knowledge, trustworthiness, efficiency, loyalty, activity, movement, whereabouts, affiliations, associations, transactions, acts, reputations, or character of a person.
c. The location, disposition, or recovery of lost or stolen property.
d. The cause or responsibility for fires, losses, accidents, damages, or injuries to persons or to property.
(3) PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR.
a. A person who, for compensation, performs one or more of the private investigation services defined and regulated by this chapter.
b. A person who, for consideration, advertises as providing or performing private investigation. The term does not include an informant who, on a one time or limited basis, as a result of a unique expertise, ability, or vocation, and who provides information or services while under the direction and control of a licensee of the board, that would otherwise be included in the definition of private investigation.
c. A person who is engaged in private investigation as defined herein and who is licensed in accordance with this chapter.
Section 34-25B-3. License required; criminal background check.
No person shall practice private investigation or hold himself or herself out to the public as a private investigator or use any term, title, or abbreviation that expresses, infers, or implies that the person is licensed as a private investigator unless the person at the time holds a valid license to practice private investigation as provided in this chapter. All applicants shall pass a criminal background check based on criteria established pursuant to Section 34-25B-4.
Section 34-25B-10. Practice of private investigation without a license; location of records.
(a) Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, it shall be unlawful for any person to act as a private investigator without first obtaining a license from the board. For prosecution purposes, a violation of this chapter is classified as a Class A misdemeanor.
(b) Each person licensed in accordance with this chapter shall designate to the board a physical address where his or her records are to be kept.
Section 34-25B-22. Violations.
(a) The following acts when committed by an individual licensed as a private investigator in Alabama shall constitute a violation punishable as a Class A misdemeanor:
(1) To knowingly make a material misrepresentation as to the ability of the individual to perform the investigation required by a potential client in order to obtain employment.
(2) To make unsubstantiated monetary charges to a client for services not rendered or transportation not utilized.
(3) To knowingly make a false report to a client in relations to the investigation performed for a client.
(4) To continue an investigation for a client when it becomes obvious to the investigator that a successful completion of an investigation is unlikely without first advising the client and obtaining the approval of the client for continuation of the investigation.
(5) To reveal information obtained for a client during an investigation to another individual except as required by law.
(b) Persons licensed pursuant to this chapter shall report any suspected instances of child abuse or neglect to a local law enforcement agency or the Department of Human Resources, or both.
Section 34-25B-24. Exceptions.
This chapter does not apply to the following:
(1) An employee of any business or entity that is not primarily engaged in the business of private investigation when that employee is performing duties related to his or her employment.
(3) An employee of any business or entity that is not primarily engaged in the business of private investigation when that employee is working under a contract for his or her services that his or her employer signed with a third party.
(4) Any person or professional, including without limitation an attorney providing legal services, who is not primarily engaged in the business of private investigation, but who in conjunction with his or her business or profession may occasionally perform private investigation services.
(5) Any business or entity that is not primarily engaged in the business of private investigation.
Professional Investigator Licensure Act
Act 285 of 1965
License Required to Skip Trace: YES
Regulatory Agency: Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs
Agency Website: https://www.michigan.gov/lara/0,4601,7-154-89334_61343_35414—,00.html
338.821 Short title.
This act shall be known and may be cited as the “professional investigator licensure act“.
As used in this act:
(b) “Computer forensics” means the collection, investigation, analysis, and scientific examination of data held on, or retrieved from, computers, computer networks, computer storage media, electronic devices, electronic storage media, or electronic networks, or any combination thereof.
(c) “Department” means the Michigan department of labor and economic growth.
(e) “Investigation business” means a business that, for a fee, reward, or other consideration, engages in business or accepts employment to furnish, or subcontracts or agrees to make, or makes an investigation for the purpose of obtaining information with reference to any of the following:
(i) Crimes or wrongs done or threatened against the United States or a state or territory of the United States, or any other person or legal entity.
(ii) The identity, habits, conduct, business, occupation, honesty, integrity, credibility, trustworthiness, efficiency, loyalty, activity, movement, whereabouts, affiliations, associations, transactions, acts, reputation, or character of a person.
(iii) The location, disposition, or recovery of lost or stolen property.
(iv) The cause or responsibility for fires, libels, losses, accidents, or damage or injury to persons or property.
(v) Securing evidence to be used before a court, board, officer, or investigating committee.
(vi) The prevention, detection, and removal of surreptitiously installed devices designed for eavesdropping or observation, or both.
(vii) The electronic tracking of the location of an individual or motor vehicle for purposes of detection or investigation.
(viii) Computer forensics to be used as evidence before a court, board, officer, or investigating committee.
(f) “Licensee” means a person licensed under this act.
(h) “Professional investigator” means a person, other than an insurance adjuster who is on salary and employed by an insurance company, who for a fee, reward, or other consideration engages in the investigation business.
338.823 License required; investigation of prohibited activities; civil or criminal action; violation; penalty.
(1) A person, firm, partnership, company, limited liability company, or corporation shall not engage in the business of professional investigator for hire, fee, or reward, and shall not advertise his or her business to be that of professional investigator or of a professional investigator agency without first obtaining a license from the department. A person, firm, partnership, company, limited liability company, or corporation shall not engage in the business of furnishing or supplying, for hire and reward, information as to the personal character of any person or firm, or as to the character or kind of business and occupation of any person, firm, partnership, company, limited liability company, or corporation and shall not own, conduct, or maintain a bureau or agency for the purposes described in this subsection except as to the financial rating of persons, firms, partnerships, companies, limited liability companies, or corporations without having first obtained a license as a professional investigator from the department.
(2) The department, the attorney general, the Michigan state police, or a local law enforcement agency, on its own initiative or at the request of any other person or legal entity, may investigate allegations of a person or legal entity engaging in activities regulated under this act without being appropriately licensed or exempt from licensure under this act. The entity conducting the investigation shall report its findings to the attorney general and county prosecuting attorney having jurisdiction in the location within which the alleged violator is engaged in business. The attorney general or county prosecuting attorney may bring an appropriate civil or criminal action in a court of competent jurisdiction to enjoin any person or legal entity that has engaged or is about to engage in any activity regulated by this act without being appropriately licensed or exempt from licensure under this act. Such an injunction may be issued without proof of actual damage sustained by any person or legal entity. Issuance of an injunction shall not prevent criminal prosecution of a violator. In addition to issuing the injunction, the court may impose a civil violation fine not to exceed $25,000.00. A person or other legal entity who reports to the department, a local law enforcement agency, a county prosecuting attorney, or the attorney general regarding an allegation of unlicensed activity is immune from tort liability for making the report.
(3) A person violating this section is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 4 years or by a penal fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.
338.842 Advertising; contents; discontinuing misleading advertising; notice.
(1) An advertisement by a licensee soliciting or advertising for business shall contain his or her name and address as they appear in the records of the department.
(2) A licensee shall, on notice from the department, discontinue any advertising or the use of any advertisement, seal, or card, that the department determines to be misleading to the public. Failure to comply with such an order is cause for suspension or revocation of the license.
(3) Unless licensed under this act, a person shall not advertise his or her business to be that of a professional investigator regardless of the name or title actually used.
Texas Private Security Act
License Required to Skip Trace: YES
Regulatory Agency: Texas Department of Public Safety, Regulatory Service Division, Private Security Board.
Agency Website: https://www.dps.texas.gov/section/private-security/licensing-and-registration
SUBCHAPTER A. GENERAL PROVISIONS
Sec. 1702.001. SHORT TITLE. This chapter may be cited as the Private Security Act.
Sec. 1702.002. DEFINITIONS. In this chapter:
(5-b) “Company license” means a license issued by the department that entitles a person to operate as a security services contractor or investigations company.
(8-a) “Individual license” means a license issued by the department that entitles an individual to perform a service regulated by this chapter for a company license holder, including a personal protection officer license.
(10) “Investigations company” means a person who performs the activities described by Section 1702.104.
(16) “Person” includes an individual, firm, association, company, partnership, corporation, nonprofit organization, institution, or similar entity. Section 311.005(2), Government Code, does not apply to this subdivision.
(18) “Private investigator” means an individual who performs one or more services described by Section 1702.104.
SUBCHAPTER F. LICENSING AND DUTIES OF INVESTIGATIONS COMPANIES AND SECURITY SERVICES CONTRACTORS
Sec. 1702.101. INVESTIGATIONS COMPANY LICENSE REQUIRED. Unless the person holds a license as an investigations company, a person may not:
(1) act as an investigations company;
(2) offer to perform the services of an investigations company; or
(3) engage in business activity for which a license is required under this chapter.
Sec. 1702.104. INVESTIGATIONS COMPANY.
(a) A person acts as an investigations company for the purposes of this chapter if the person:
(1) engages in the business of obtaining or furnishing, or accepts employment to obtain or furnish, information related to:
(A) crime or wrongs done or threatened against a person, state, or the United States;
(B) the identity, habits, business, occupation, knowledge, efficiency, loyalty, movement, location, affiliations, associations, transactions, acts, reputation, or character of a person;
(C) the location, disposition, or recovery of lost or stolen property; or
(D) the cause or responsibility for a fire, libel, loss, accident, damage, or injury to a person or to property;
(2) engages in the business of securing, or accepts employment to secure, evidence for use before a court, board, officer, or investigating committee;
(3) engages in the business of securing, or accepts employment to secure, the electronic tracking of the location of an individual or motor vehicle other than for criminal justice purposes by or on behalf of a governmental entity;
SUBCHAPTER J. LICENSING AND DUTIES OF INDIVIDUALS
Sec. 1702.221. INDIVIDUAL LICENSE REQUIRED.
(a) To perform any activity regulated by this chapter, the individual must:
(1) obtain the proper individual license under Subsection (b); and
(2) be employed by a company license holder.
(b) An individual must obtain the appropriate individual license in accordance with the requirements of this chapter and related administrative rules if the individual:
(1) is employed as:
(I) a private investigator; or
(J) an individual whose duties include performing another activity for which an individual license is required under Subsection (e);
SUBCHAPTER P. PENALTIES AND ENFORCEMENT PROVISIONS
Sec. 1702.381. CIVIL PENALTY.
(a) A person who is not licensed under this chapter, who does not have a license application pending, and who violates this chapter may be assessed a civil penalty to be paid to the state not to exceed $10,000 for each violation.
(b) A person who contracts with or employs a person who is required to hold a license or security officer commission under this chapter knowing that the person does not hold the required license or commission or who otherwise, at the time of contract or employment, is in violation of this chapter may be assessed a civil penalty to be paid to the state in an amount not to exceed $10,000 for each violation.
(c) A civil penalty under this section may be assessed against a person on proof that the person has received at least 30 days’ notice of the requirements of this section.
Sec. 1702.3835. DECEPTIVE TRADE PRACTICE.
(a) A person who performs or offers to perform an activity regulated under this chapter, but who is not licensed or otherwise authorized under this chapter to perform the activity, commits a false, misleading, or deceptive act or practice within the meaning of Section 17.46, Business & Commerce Code.
(b) A public or private right or remedy under Chapter 17, Business & Commerce Code, may be used to enforce this chapter.
Sec. 1702.386. UNAUTHORIZED EMPLOYMENT; OFFENSE.
(a) A person commits an offense if the person contracts with or employs a person who is required to hold a license or commission under this chapter knowing that the person does not hold the required license or commission or who otherwise, at the time of contract or employment, is in violation of this chapter.
(b) An offense under Subsection (a) is a Class A misdemeanor.
Sec. 1702.3876. IMPERSONATING PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR; OFFENSE.
(a) A person commits an offense if the person:
(1) impersonates a private investigator with the intent to induce another to submit to the person’s pretended authority or to rely on the person’s pretended acts of a private investigator; or
(2) knowingly purports to exercise any function that requires licensure as a private investigator.
(b) an offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor, except that the offense is a felony of the third degree if it is shown on the trial of the offense that the defendant has previously been convicted of an offense under this section.
Sec. 1702.388. VIOLATION OF CHAPTER; OFFENSE.
(a) A person commits an offense if the person violates a provision of this chapter for which a specific criminal penalty is not prescribed.
(b) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor, except that the offense is a felony of the third degree if the person has previously been convicted under this chapter of failing to hold a license, certificate of insurance, or commission that the person is required to hold under this chapter.