States That Do Not Require a License for Private Investigators

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As of March 2011, five states do not require licensure for private investigators: Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, South Dakota and Wyoming. Of these states, Colorado and South Dakota are pursuing licensing as of 2011. Proponents of licensure for private investigators say it gives credibility to those in the industry, while opponents cite concerns that regulation will hamper investigators' performance and earning capability.

Licensure Pros and Cons

Proponents of licensure for private investigators cite the "weeding out" of criminals in the profession, increased credibility for the industry, the benefits of continuing education as a condition for licensure, and the ability of private investigators to market the minimum requirements for licensure, such as experience and liability insurance. Opponents' concerns about licensure focus on the requirement for registering, which they view as a trade restriction, expensive licensure fees, and arbitrary regulatory agency rule making that would hinder investigators' performance and earning potential.


On Feb. 17, 2011, the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) recommended licensure of private investigators, with the House Judiciary Committee passing HB11-1195, the Voluntary Licensure of Private Investigators bill, later that same month. On March 23, 2011, the Colorado Finance Committee voted 8-5 to approve this bill. At last word, the bill was in the Colorado House Appropriations Committee, which was reviewing the bill.

South Dakota

In early 2011, South Dakota introduced HB-1138, which requires licensure for all private investigators whether they are employees of an investigations company or operate as solo practitioners. This legislation mandates that investigators be at least 21, citizens of the U.S., employed by (or have a job offer from) a private investigations firm or be licensed as a private investigations firm, and have three years' minimum investigative or equivalent experience.

Idaho, Mississippi and Wyoming

These three states were not pursuing statewide licensing for private investigators as of 2011. According to Stuart Robinson, a private investigator in Idaho, each city within that state is requiring investigation agencies to purchase a license as well as a surety bond. This requires investigators to obtain licensure for every town in which they work.