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How to Become a Private Investigator in Wisconsin

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To become a private investigator, or PI, in Wisconsin, you must first meet the requirements, complete the application process, and take the state licensing exam. Licensure is valid for one year, then must be renewed. The Wisconsin Department of Regulation & Licensing oversees the verification and application process.

Meet the requirements. To become a private investigator (also called private detective) in Wisconsin, you must be 18 years of age, have a high school diploma, not have any current felony convictions (any past felony convictions must have been pardoned by the governor or reduced to misdemeanors), and be employed by a licensed detective agency in Wisconsin. You must also obtain a $2,000 bond unless you're covered by the liability insurance of your employer's detective agency. If you wish to work for yourself, you must also apply for a private detective agency license.

Complete the application. To download an application, go to drl.wi.gov, select "Private Detective" in the "Choose Profession" menu (located in the middle of the page). Under "Licensing," select "Applications/Forms," then select form "469" (Application for Private Detective License). If you wish to work for yourself, complete the employer portion of the application. Note: If you are delinquent in paying Wisconsin state taxes or child support, your application will automatically be denied.

Obtain your fingerprints. Wisconsin requires all new applicants to be electronically fingerprinted, and for your application to be submitted within 14 days of being fingerprinted. Schedule an appointment to be fingerprinted with L-1 Identify Solutions (the company contracted by the state to perform fingerprinting) by calling 1-866-416-4896. This is a charge for this service.

Compile additional documentation. Besides your application itself and your fingerprints, you must compile additional documentation to accompany your application, including a release for Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) information, photograph and a conviction/pending charges form. More information about these forms is in the Instruction Packet for Private Detective License (see References below).

Take the state licensing exam. After you've submitted your application, documents, and fingerprints, the Department of Regulation & Licensing processes the paperwork, then emails you instructions (including information about fees) for taking the state licensing exam. This exam covers information in the Private Detective Code Book and other materials (it's a good idea to interview a licensed Wisconsin private investigator and ask for a recommendation on other materials to study for the exam). To purchase a copy of the Private Detective Code Book, call 608-264-9419. To contact a licensed Wisconsin investigator, go to the Professional Association of Wisconsin Licensed Investigators website (pawli.com).

About the Author

In 1997 Harlequin published Colleen Collins' first novel, followed by many more by Harlequin and Dorchester. Her articles and writing have appeared in "P.I. Magazine," "Pursuit Magazine" and "Cosmopolitan." She earned a B.A. in theater arts from University of California, Santa Barbara and is an active member of Mystery Writers of America.

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