The principle of a detective activity refers to the most general basic rules under which the detective is obliged to act in everyday life as well as in performing his work within the legal authority.
The key principles of the private detective activity are as follows: Principle of legality, planning principle, principle of methodology and operativeness of the detective activity, principle of coordination and cooperation, principle of secrecy, principle of acceptance of truthfulness and objectivity, principle of detective ethics, principle of trust and correctness, principle of professional development and principle of humanity.
- Principle of legality
It constitutes a universal principle in the work of the state bodies, but also an obligation of all non-state entities. In this context, the principle of legality means that the performing of the detective activity must be guided by positive regulations (Constitution and laws) that regulate the detective activity. The private detective’s work must comply with the applicable laws and bylaws as well as other legal acts that have common points in performing the detective activity. The private investigator must know how to legally begin to collect data and information which means that these would be valid and applicable in given procedures of significance to the client of the detective service. Apart from the knowledge of the general legal requirements, knowledge of the material and procedural criminal law (criminal law, criminal procedure law) is also of great significance, as well as other laws that are related with the detective activity, the Police law, Law on intelligence and security agencies and other regulations.
- Principle of planning, operativeness and methodology
The detective activity should be systematically and continuously planned from beginning to end. The private detective alone or in cooperation with other participants in the detective activity must initially define the questions to be answered and plan a version regarding the possible answer. The detective agency and the detectives should specify the directions, strategy and tactics of the activity, which implies the planning of the deadlines for execution and the requirement to use technical means. According to the principle of operativeness, it should be taken into consideration that the term ‘operativeness’ denotes speed, efficiency and accuracy in the performance of a particular work, and it originates from the Latin ‘operativus’ (practical worker). This principle implies the ability and willingness of the detective to adapt to the objective reality that is conditioned in the pursuit of detective activity (operational situation, time, space).
- Principle of coordination and cooperation
The successful detective activity today is not limited to local level only, since there are detective activities that do not have spatial limitations or any administrative boundaries. Therefore, in certain situations it is necessary for a private detective to act in a wide area so as to collect relevant data and information upon the client's need. Coordination and cooperation of private detectives is accomplished through direct contacts and mutual exchange of information. In certain situations and depending on the detective activity and territorial prevalence, joint teamwork of several private detectives and detective agencies can be organized.
- Principle of secrecy (keeping a business secret)
The principle of secrecy is one of the fundamental principles that private detectives should adhere to. In the context of business confidentiality, the private detective has an obligation to adhere to the regulations regarding the Law on Personal Data Protection. The principle of keeping business secret guarantees legal and objective work of private detectives and provides protection to the parties in relation to the use of the collected data during the course of the detective activity. The private detective is obliged to keep the business secret in the process otherwise he may be criminally liable.
- Principle of objectivity
The principle of objectivity requires the private detective to conduct realistic and unbiased planning and undertake measures and activities he is legally authorized to perform for the purpose of the undertaken obligations upon request by the service provider arising from the concluded written agreement. This principle is closely related to the principle of legality and contributes to determining the truth, which means that all the data and information obtained and the evidence provided by the detective should be gathered in an objective way so as to be accurate and true. This implies that the obligation of the private investigator is to first objectively and impartially observe what the client of the detective requires and whether it is in accordance with the law, all data and information to be collected objectively without expressing personal and subjective interests, and in the same manner to act likewise in processing and delivering the information to the customer of the service. It should be taken into consideration that the purpose of the detective activity must be to collect data and information that is credible and truthful. In collecting data for the customer of the service, the private detective must not be guided by partiality, vanity and certain personal interests. The detective must be guided by his professionalism, expertise and detective moral norms, which means that in the course of his work, he should eliminate any kind of affection towards any person who comes in contact with and objectively perceive all facts without bias, mercy, or some other immoral motives.
- Principle of trust and correctness
The principle of trust and correctness is one of the most important principles of detective activity. The private detective, apart from the legal and objective action, gets reputation and trust with his correct attitude toward the clients, which enables him to attract clients, thus creating conditions for new clients. The detective must first work legally, then with his activity and the results of the work, the good behavior with the clients to gain their trust and expand the scope of his work. Developing trust and correctness results from the obligation of the private detective to inform the client of the service about his ability and the detective's action and not to give promises about the success in advance. The detective cannot in any way fail to betray the trust of the client of the service, and he is obliged to keep the client’s secret and to respect his/her privacy.
- Principle of expertise and continuous improvement
The private detective must be an expert in performing the detective tasks and to constantly improve his skills in carrying out complex detective tasks. The private detective must have knowledge that will enable him professionally and in accordance with the legal and secondary regulations to take measures in the work he is authorized for. In that sense, the detective must have knowledge and application of criminal operational methods, as well as those methods that the police use, although he is not authorized to undertake such methods. The wide range of knowledge allows full perception of specific situations and selection of the most adequate measures which a private investigator can apply in each individual case.
- Principle of cost-effectiveness
The principle of cost-effectiveness implies taking only those measures that are necessary for the successful completion of the detective activity and which do not delay its activity, creating unnecessary costs for the service contractor. The application of this principle must be in accordance with the principle of legality and objectivity, which means that the detective must take all necessary measures and must have in mind that those measures are rational and efficient in resolving the case. The contract concluded with the client in relation with performance of certain detective activities regulates the price of the detective service for the particular case. The private investigator is obliged to inform the party about the cost of the service, the payment method and the terms in case of potential changes in the price of the service. If during the activity the detective comes in a situation to collect certain information and evidence whose cost exceeds the agreed price, he shall be obliged to request compensation with an explanation as agreed with the client. The client’s consent may also be oral, but it is important that the detective cannot increase the costs that are not agreed upon because their increase without the client’s consent is not in line with the principle of cost-effectiveness.
- Principle of humanity
The principle of humanity implies that the private investigator in any of his activities acts in a humane manner, takes all the allowed measures in accordance with legal provisions and the general moral norms, takes care of performing the agreed work without causing harmful consequences to the service contractor or to a third party. The detective with his activities should not underestimate the human personality and jeopardize human security or disrespect others' privacy and family life. This principle has a certain connection with the basic moral principles in its application and the detective is obliged to abide by the code of detective ethics.