Client Confidentiality in Private Investigations
Dave Walker, Certified Professional Investigator
Most of us are familiar with terms like Attorney/Client, Doctor/Patient or Clergy/Parishioner privilege. In each of these relationships there is actually a DUTY of confidentiality. The privilege of confidentiality is asserted by the practitioner to prevent from being forced to repeat the confidential information in an evidence setting.
Private investigators promise confidentiality to their clients. In California, we have Business & Professions code 7539(a) that reads:
Any licensee or officer, director, partner, managing member, or manager of a licensee may divulge to any law enforcement officer or district attorney, or his or her representative, any information he or she may acquire as to any criminal offense, but he or she shall not divulge to any other person, except as otherwise required by law, any information acquired by him or her except at the direction of the employer or client for whom the information was obtained.
SHALL NOT is strong wording. A private investigator may be in violation of the law by divulging information without the permission of the client/employer.
Case law from the California 4th District Court of Appeal further strengthens this position in Flynn v Superior Court (1997, Cal App 4th Dist) 57 Cal App 4th 992-996. In this case, the private investigator refused to respond to specific questions during a deposition. The court affirmed the only information the private investigator was required to provide was the identity of the client.
In all professional relationships where confidentiality has a role, it is incumbent on the client/patient/parishioner to do their part and keep confidential information confidential.