By: Bill Morris
Chief Executive Officer
The Meurig Group, LLC
This is a very popular question among new private investigators. Can I carry a badge and gun as a private investigator? To answer this question we must break the question into two parts: 1) Should a private investigator carry a badge and a gun? 2) Why would a private investigator want to carry a badge and a gun?
Texas Penal Code
Texas Penal Code Section 37.12, clearly states
A person commits an offense if the person intentionally or knowingly misrepresents an object as property belonging to a law enforcement agency.
What purpose is a badge if not to convince another person of the authority of the investigator? The answer is, none. Let’s be honest here, if a private investigator is flashing a badge and a gun, that investigator is hoping to insinuate to those he or she is investigating that he or she is acting under the color of the law. The implicit purpose of doing so is to appeal to the public’s general consensus that one must comply with police directives.
The loophole defense here is: Texas Law says I cannot put the insignia of a municipality, county, or State of Texas on my badge. My badge has my company logo and license number.
All of these things may be true, but one must go a bit deeper into the law to find a clear answer into whether or not a private investigator in Texas can carry a badge.
Texas Occupations Code
Texas Occupations Code 1702 states:
Sec. 1702.130. USE OF CERTAIN TITLES, UNIFORMS, INSIGNIA, OR IDENTIFICATIONS PROHIBITED. (a) A license holder, or an officer, director, partner, manager, or employee of a license holder, may not:
(1) use a title, an insignia, or an identification card, wear a uniform, or make a statement with the intent to give an impression that the person is connected with the federal government, a state government, or a political subdivision of a state government; or
(2) use a title, an insignia, or an identification card or wear a uniform containing the designation “police.”
(b) Subsection (a) does not prohibit a commissioned security officer employed by a political subdivision of this state from using a title, insignia, or identification card, wearing a uniform, or making a statement indicating the employment of that individual by the political subdivision.
Note the broad statement in the law above “A license holder, or an officer, director, partner, manager, or employee of a license holder, may not: . . give the impression . . .”
This section of the law falls to the “reasonable person test.” If a reasonable person observed a private investigator carrying a badge, would the reasonable person conclude that the private investigator was “connected with the federal government, a state government, or a political subdivision of a state government . . .”? If the answer to this question is yes, the private investigator could be in violation of the law.
A private investigator does not need to carry a badge to identify himself or herself as licensed private investigator in the State of Texas. The Texas Private Security Bureau issues all licensed private security and private investigation professionals an identification card with the professional’s picture on the face of the card. The Texas Private Security Bureau also allows for online license checks here.
Can a private investigator carry a gun?
Private investigators are not licensed peace officers, or federal agents. Any private investigator wanting to carry a firearm must meet the same licensing standards as any other private citizen. The predominant question to carry a firearm or not must be: For what purpose is the private investigator carrying a firearm?
If the private investigator is attempting to look like a police officer or federal agent, the private investigator probably should refrain from carrying a firearm. If the private investigator is a firearms expert that carries a firearm on a daily basis whether at work or not, perhaps he or she could carry as long as doing so is in accordance with company policy and applicable state laws.
For the consumer
If you are reading this because you have been approached by a private investigator and you’re worried about the legitimacy of the investigator, here are few things to remember:
- You have no obligation to speak to a private investigator.
- A private investigator wearing a badge and a gun in plain view may indicate a lack of training or licensing, and may be a violation of the law.
- Contact 911 immediately if the private investigator becomes confrontational.
Private investigators have enough access to enough resources to gather the information needed during an investigation. Attempting to coerce through overt or implicit acts is never necessary.
Should a private investigator carry a badge and a gun? Almost certainly never.
THE MEURIG GROUP, LLC (LICENSE NO. A04128001) IS A PRIVATE INVESTIGATION FIRM BASED IN MCALLEN, TEXAS.