The days of fly-by-night private investigators working in an unregulated industry are long gone. Today’s PIs are former cops, soldiers, corrections officers, and government employees. Their backgrounds are as squeaky clean as their business practices, and their qualifications come complete with a state license that solidifies their credentials.
In Maine, if you’re a private investigator, chances are you’ve earned the trust and respect of everyone from trial attorneys to private corporations. Take, for instance, former Lewiston City Council President, private investigator, and school board member Mark Cayer, who won the mayoral race in Bangor in November 2019. With a background in law enforcement, politics, and private investigations, Cayer came to the table with a deep understanding of the law and a game plan for giving the city an economic boost.
Private investigators in Maine are referred to as professional investigators, and they’re licensed and strictly regulated by the Maine State Police. You’ll need to meet specific experience and training requirements to be considered for a professional investigator license in Maine.
Step 1. Meet General Qualifications for Professional Investigators in Maine
Before embarking on a course of action to become a private investigator in Maine, you must meet some basic qualifications:
- You must be at least 21 years old
- You must be a U.S. citizen or resident alien
- You must be a high school graduate or hold a GED
- You must have good moral character, partially demonstrated by:
- No convictions of crimes punishable by a maximum imprisonment of over one year
- No abuse incidents of family or household members in the past five years
- Less than three convictions for Class D or E crimes in the past five years
- Less than three convictions of civil crimes in the past five years
- No negligent or reckless activities that endangered others’ safety in the past five years (includes the use of motor vehicles and/or weapons)
- No failures to meet child or family support obligations
- No dishonorable discharge from military service
- You must meet educational and experience requirements (see Step 2)
- You must pass an examination (see Step 4)
Step 2. Complete Education and Experience Requirements for Professional Investigators in Maine
Maine law states that you must meet one of the following education/experience combination requirements in order to be eligible to take the state’s private investigator licensing examination:
- Option 1: Complete 60 college credits in private investigation or a related field or earn a certificate of study in private investigation; and complete a t least 1200 hours in an investigative assistant sponsorship program supervised by a sponsoring licensed private investigator
- Option 2: Have at least three years of experience working full-time as a federal detective or investigator of the United States Armed Forces or of a federal investigative agency
- Option 3: Have at least three years of employment as a law enforcement officer of a state or jurisdiction and met its training requirements
- Option 4: Have at least six years of experience with a combination of the following:
- Two years of work experience in a non-clerical profession related to criminal justice or law, and
- Education consisting of one of the following choices:
- An associate degree from an accredited institution in criminal justice, law, investigation, security management, police administration, computer forensics or another acceptable related discipline
- 60 credits of college study from an accredited institution in one of the above-mentioned disciplines
If you have held a private investigator’s license in another state or territory for at least three years, that state grants reciprocity to Maine licensed private investigators, and that state’s licensing requirements are equivalent to those of Maine, you are exempt from meeting the education and experience requirements. You might also be exempt from taking the state examination.
You must also become certified in the use of firearms in Maine in order to become a private investigator. While no permits are necessary to own a firearm, certification and training in the proper use of firearms is necessary in order to receive a concealed carry permit. At minimum, you must complete a handgun safety course.
Step 3. Submit Maine Professional Investigator License Application and Supporting Documentation
When you have met the above qualifications, you are ready to submit the Maine Application for Professional Investigator License. Along with the completed application, you must submit:
- Check or money order payable to Treasurer, State of Maine for $71 (includes application fee of $50 plus State Bureau of Identification record check fee of $21). (A final fee of $450 is due when you pass the Maine Professional Investigators Exam prior to issuance of your license)
- A copy of your high school diploma or GED
- A copy of your birth certificate/resident alien card
- Copy of your military discharge, if applicable
- Copy of any certificates you hold from law enforcement academy training and transcripts, if applicable
- Copy of college diploma and transcripts, if applicable
- Copy of documentation of your work history, including jobs, duties, and dates, signed by employer(s)
- Three certifications from persons who have known you for at least three years. These are included in the application form, and must be signed by persons who live in your community, live in the community in which you work, or live in the community in which you plan to work
- Signed Form P-3, giving your authority to all law enforcement agencies, courts, military forces, government agencies, hospitals and mental institutions to release information to the Chief of the Maine State Police for evaluation of your application
- Signed Authorization to Release form giving your authority to the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center and the Riverview Psychiatric Center to release information to the Chief of the Maine State Police for evaluation of your application (must be signed and included with all applications, even if you were never a patient at either facility)
- Signed Form 577, Client Authorization to release information to the Chief of the Maine State Police from the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center and the Riverview Psychiatric Center (must be signed and included with all applications, even if you were never a patient at either facility)
Mail all of the above to Department of Public Safety, Maine State Police, Special Investigations Unit, 164 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0164.
Step 4. Pass the Maine Professional Investigators Examination
After your application to become a private investigator in Maine is received by the Maine State Police and your background check is complete, you will be contacted to schedule a date and time to take the Maine Professional Investigators Examination. The exam consists of 50 multiple-choice and true-false questions, and is given on the third Thursday of every month. Contents of the exam include:
- Laws relating to professional investigators
- Laws relating to permits to carry concealed handguns
- Title 17-A, Maine Criminal Statutes, Parts 1 (General Principles) and 2 (Substantive Offenses)
You must get at least 76 percent of the exam correct in order to pass. Once you pass the exam, the Maine State Police will send your insurance company an approval letter.
Step 5. Obtain Commercial General Liability Insurance for Maine Professional Investigators
Under Maine law, you must obtain an occurrence-based Commercial General Liability insurance policy from an insurer who is licensed by the Maine Bureau of Insurance to do business in Maine before you will be issued a license to work as a professional investigator in the state. The minimum required amounts of coverage are as follows:
- Property damage: $10,000
- Each occurrence limit: $100,000
- General aggregate limit: $200,000
Your name must be listed on the policy along with your employer’s name, if your employer has its own liability insurance. Proof of insurance must identify the Certificate Holder as Maine State Police, Special Investigations Unit, 164 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333.
You must also give to the Chief of Police a Surety Bond for $10,000 if you are a resident of Maine and $50,000 if you are not. A surety company authorized to work in Maine must execute the bond.
When your insurance company issues the bond and proof of commercial general liability insurance and you submit the final fee of $450 to the Maine State Police, you will receive your professional investigator’s license.
Step 6. Now That You’re a Professional Investigator in Maine
Congratulations! You are now a licensed professional investigator in the state of Maine! Your initial professional investigator’s license is valid for two years, at which time it must be renewed. Once renewed, you may apply for renewal every four years. At renewal, must submit the same three Authorities to Release documentation forms you initially submitted when you applied for the license, along with:
- Completed Professional Investigator License Renewal form
- $521 via check or money order payable to the Treasurer, State of Maine (includes application fee of $500 plus State Bureau of Identification record check fee of $21)
It will take the Special Investigations Unit about 6 to 8 weeks to process your renewal application, at which time you will receive an approval letter from them requesting a four-year continuation certification from your insurance company. Present this to the insurance company and send it, along with proof of commercial general liability insurance, and a current photograph of yourself, to Department of Public Safety, Maine State Police, Special Investigations Unit, 164 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0164. (If you have changed insurance companies, you must also submit a new surety bond form).
Private Investigator Salary Information for Maine*
Private investigators in Maine earned $51,230, on average, as of May 2019 – that’s about $1,000 more annually than the national average for this profession. Even better, those PIs here who’ve put the time and energy in to establishing themselves so they can make their way to the top of the profession earned an average of $77,790 during this time.
If you want to become a private investigator in Maine, you’ll need to earn a license through the Maine State Police’s Licensing Division. To qualify, you must be at least 18 years, and you must hold a high school diploma or GED. You’ll also need to pass both a written examination and a background investigation and show proof of having completed one of the following:
- At least 1,700 hours working as an investigative assistant
- One year of employment with a U.S. investigative service
- One year of employment as a law enforcement officer
- 60 college credits
- Associate’s degree in law enforcement
*Salary and employment data compiled by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics in May of 2019. Figures represent accumulated data for all employment sectors in which private investigators work. BLS salary data represents state and MSA (metropolitan statistical area) average and median earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries.
All salary and employment data accessed May 2020.