Code of the District of Columbia

Subchapter XI. Private Detectives.


§ 5–121.01. Bond required; conditions thereof; suits by injured parties.

The Council of the District of Columbia shall by regulation require that bonds in the amount of not more than $25,000 shall be furnished and kept in force by all persons licensed as private detectives in the District of Columbia. Bonds required by this section shall be corporate bonds and shall run to the District and shall be conditioned upon the observance by the licensed private detective and any agent, employee, or person acting in behalf of the licensed private detective of all laws and regulations in force in the District of Columbia applicable to the conduct of persons licensed as private detectives. Such bonds shall be for the benefit of any person who may suffer damages as a result of violation of any law or regulation by or on the part of any licensed private detective or any agent, employee, or person acting on the behalf of any private detective. In addition to any right to any other legal action, any person aggrieved by the violation of any law or regulation by a licensed private detective may bring suit against the surety on a bond required by this section either alone or jointly with the principal thereon and recover damages for such violation of law or regulation in an amount not to exceed the penal amount of the bond. The provisions of paragraphs (2), (3), and (5) of subsection (b) of § 1-301.01 shall be applicable to each bond authorized by this section as if it were the bond authorized by paragraph (1) of such subsection (b); provided, that nothing in this section shall be construed to impose upon the surety on any such bond a greater liability than the total amount thereof or the amount remaining unextinguished after any prior recovery or recoveries.


(Nov. 8, 1965, 79 Stat. 1309, Pub. L. 89-347, § 9(b).)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 4-171.

1973 Ed., § 4-171a.

Change in Government

This section originated at a time when local government powers were delegated to a Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia (see Acts Relating to the Establishment of the District of Columbia and its Various Forms of Governmental Organization in Volume 1). Section 402(105) of Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1967 (see Reorganization Plans in Volume 1) transferred all of the functions of the Board of Commissioners under this section to the District of Columbia Council, subject to the right of the Commissioner as provided in § 406 of the Plan. The District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act, 87 Stat. 818, § 711 ( D.C. Code, § 1-207.11), abolished the District of Columbia Council and the Office of Commissioner of the District of Columbia. These branches of government were replaced by the Council of the District of Columbia and the Office of Mayor of the District of Columbia, respectively. Accordingly, and also pursuant to § 714(a) of such Act ( D.C. Code, § 1-207.14(a)), appropriate changes in terminology were made in this section.


§ 5–121.02. Duty in making arrest.

It shall be the duty of every person prosecuting the business of a private detective, who may arrest a person for crime, to bring the person arrested, with all evidence of the alleged crime, including property or money which may become evidence, immediately to the office of the Chief of Police, or to the proper court, where the case shall undergo an examination.


(R.S., D.C., § 429.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 4-172.

1973 Ed., § 4-172.

Cross References

“Detectives” defined and licensing of private detectives, see § 47-2839.

Editor's Notes

Office of Major and Superintendent of Metropolitan Police abolished: See Historical and Statutory Notes following § 5-105.01.


§ 5–121.03. Acting without compliance with law.

Any person practicing as a private detective or advertising or holding himself out as such without first complying with the provisions of law relative to private detectives shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine not exceeding $500 or imprisonment in the District Jail for a period not exceeding 11 months and 29 days.


(Feb. 28, 1901, 31 Stat. 820, ch. 623, § 5.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 4-173.

1973 Ed., § 4-173.

Cross References

“Detectives” defined and licensing of private detectives, see § 47-2839.


§ 5–121.04. Applicable police provisions.

All laws which govern the police force in the matters of persons, property, or money shall be applicable to all private detectives (or to persons practicing as detectives, whatever other name they may assume) and such detectives or persons shall make like returns and dispositions of such matters as required by law and the rules of the Mayor governing the police force.


(R.S., D.C., § 430; June 11, 1878, 20 Stat. 107, ch. 180, § 6.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 4-174.

1973 Ed., § 4-174.

Cross References

“Detectives” defined and licensing of private detectives, see § 47-

Change in Government

This section originated at a time when local government powers were delegated to a Board of Commissioners of the District of Columbia (see Acts Relating to the Establishment of the District of Columbia and its Various Forms of Governmental Organization in Volume 1). Section 401 of Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1967 (see Reorganization Plans in Volume 1) transferred all of the functions of the Board of Commissioners under this section to a single Commissioner. The District of Columbia Self-Government and Governmental Reorganization Act, 87 Stat. 818, § 711 ( D.C. Code, § 1-207.11), abolished the District of Columbia Council and the Office of Commissioner of the District of Columbia. These branches of government were replaced by the Council of the District of Columbia and the Office of Mayor of the District of Columbia, respectively. Accordingly, and also pursuant to § 714(a) of such Act ( D.C. Code, § 1-207.14(a)), appropriate changes in terminology were made in this section.


§ 5–121.05. Compromise of felony; withholding information; receiving compensation from person arrested or liable to arrest; permitting escape.

It is unlawful for any private detective, or any member of the police force, or for any other person to compromise a felony or any other unlawful act, or to participate in, assent to, aid or assist any person suspected of crime to escape a full judicial examination by failing to give known facts or reasonable causes of suspicion, or withholding any information relative to the charge or suspicion from the proper judicial authorities; or in any manner to receive any money, property, favor, or other compensation from, or on account of, any person arrested or subject to arrest for any crime or supposed crime; or to permit any such person to go at large without due effort to secure an investigation of such supposed crime. And for any violation of the provisions of this section, or either of them, such member of the police force, or private detective, or other person guilty thereof, shall be deemed as having compromised a felony, and shall be thereafter prohibited from acting as an officer of said police force, or as a private detective, and shall be prosecuted to the extent of the law for aiding criminals to escape the ends of justice.


(R.S., D.C., § 431.)

Prior Codifications

1981 Ed., § 4-175.

1973 Ed., § 4-175.

Cross References

Rewards for apprehension of fugitives, prohibition of policeman from receiving, see § 24-201.27.