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Magnum PI vs Real Private Investigator

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If your idea of PI work is zooming around a tropical island in a Ferrari, summoning helicopters at whim, smashing windows, picking locks, kicking a** and taking names… you’ve probably watched an episode or two of Magnum, PI. It’s no secret that everything – and every job – is subject to a little Hollywood fluff prior to screen time, and the field of private investigation is no exception. Hollywood’s most iconic Private Investigator, Thomas Magnum, paints a luxurious and exciting portrait of investigative work. So what’s real and what’s Hollywood hype?

The UniformMagnum PI Hawaiian shirt
Skinny jeans (and in the case of Magnum, PI, we mean seriously skin-tight) and a Hawaiian button-down? Trench coat and fedora? Deerstalker and pipe? You’d be hard-pressed to find any serious PI in these costumes. Although there’s no standardized dress code for a self-employed private investigator, a PI interacts with law enforcement and judiciary officials and dresses accordingly. Business casual attire, suits and professional workwear are commonplace, unless a PI is working undercover. If a PI in a Hawaiian button-down offers their services – we advise taking your hard-earned money elsewhere.

Laws; What Laws?
Why wait on the police when a PI can sneak around town, breaking and entering as they please? Locked door? Hardly an obstacle for a PI and their handy-dandy lock-picking kit! Right? Wrong! Private Investigators are licensed investigators, and their credibility rests on their ability to do their work – legally. No evidence – regardless of how juicy – will serve a client if it doesn’t stand up in court.

The Fight
They’ve got literal and figurative guns and they’re taking down the bad guys, bringing justice one blow at a time! It’s glorious, it’s exciting – but it’s just not reality. A PI might assist with apprehending a fugitive, but the goal is always to bring them to a court of law for trial. Any weaponry on hand is licensed and legal, and a PI cannot and will not use them haphazardly.

The ChaseMagnum PI Ferrari Convertible
The bad guy is on the run and the PI is speeding just behind, in a Ferrari. Speed limits are of no concern, and neither is property damage! We hate to break it to you, but a PI is more likely to be staking out a suspect from inside a parked surveillance van than zooming off in a luxury car. They’re typically working discreetly, and a sports car just doesn’t blend in. Furthermore, a PI can still get a speeding ticket, and can be charged with destruction of property.

The Rat
We all know the scene: the henchman-turned-rat has been nabbed, and tied to a chair. “Tell me where he’s hiding,” the PI shouts! The guy spits – most likely in the PI’s face – and the PI smacks him, maybe even with the butt of a pistol. A tooth pops out and rolls stage left. He’s going to talk, eventually; a little corporal punishment and torture, and he’ll spill the beans in no time! The scene is pure Hollywood, however. A real PI works within the legal system. Kidnapping, witness intimidation, assault, illegal evidence gathering – these are all serious offenses, even for a PI. A good PI will gather credible witness testimony without coercion. Many times, the fact that a PI is not law enforcement and don’t employ intimidation techniques, works in the favor of clients.

The Real DealPrivate Investigator Ken Childs
One thing Hollywood got right is that a licensed Private Investigator is a deliverer of justice by way of evidence. There is a myriad of reasons a person might hire a PI, such as proving neglect in a child custody case, uncovering hidden assets during a divorce dispute, confirming suspicions of a cheating spouse, delivering thorough background checks , witness statements and more. A licensed Private Investigator will use legal means to find credible, legal evidence and answers for their clients. While they won’t be picking locks or shooting bad guys from inside a speeding Ferrari; a PI will employ state of the art technology, surveillance techniques, witness testimony gathering, and other investigative tools to get the job done.

Ken Childs

Author Consultant

Paramount Investigative Services Inc. is a highly reputable private investigation agency based in Los Angeles, boasting over 25 years of experience in the field. Founded and led by expert witness and author Ken Childs, the agency offers a comprehensive range of investigative services to clients, including insurance fraud detection, infidelity investigations, background checks, and legal support for attorneys. With a proven track record and a commitment to professionalism, Paramount Investigative Services Inc. stands out as a trusted choice for individuals, businesses, and legal professionals seeking reliable and discreet investigative solutions in Los Angeles.