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What Does It Cost to Hire a Private Investigator to Investigate Murder/Homicide?


Crime scene private investigator photographing a crime scene
Investigating a Murder or Homicide is Technical

I saw a question today and I thought it was really good. They asked what is the cost for a private investigator to investigate a murder. So let’s discuss that from an actual private investigator who has investigated murder.


What is the cost to hire a private investigator to investigate murder? The cost of investigating a homicide or a murder will vary depending on many factors. Usually a retainer of $2,500-5,000 is required to begin. Homicide/murder investigations are complex and have many moving parts. For example, look at the picture and you will see a crime scene investigator, usually working for a law enforcement agency, meticulously photographing and cataloging a crime scene. This is just the beginning. A private investigator will charge anywhere from $125-250 per hour to work on a homicide/murder investigation.


What Is Homicide and Murder And How Much for PI to Investigate a Homicide or Murder?

Let’s talk a bit about some differences. Homicide is different from murder, yet murder is a part of homicide. Let me explain the definitions as it is important to distinguish between the two. Perhaps not so much so for the private investigator— and there isn’t really a cost difference when you hire a detective, but more importantly these are understandably often confused.


Defining Murder

There are all kinds of considerations when it comes to defining murder. Most of us understand that murder is when you kill someone. But, as you probably know, murder has levels, and here are a few:


  • First-degree murder

  • Felony first-degree murder

  • Second-degree murder

  • Fetal murder

  • Attempted murder

  • Manslaughter

So what is murder? It is best defined by local Penal Codes, and for the sake of this article I will use California Penal Code 187:


(a) Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a fetus, with malice aforethought.

(b)This section shall not apply to any person who commits an act that results in the death of a fetus if any of the following apply:


(1)The act complied with the Therapeutic Abortion Act, Article 2 (commencing with Section 123400) of Chapter 2 of Part 2 of Division 106 of the Health and Safety Code.

Gun pointed what is murder private investigator answers
Murder is killing with malice


(2)The act was committed by a holder of a physician’s and surgeon’s certificate, as defined in the Business and Professions Code, in a case where, to a medical certainty, the result of childbirth would be death of the mother of the fetus or where her death from childbirth, although not medically certain, would be substantially certain or more likely than not.


(3)The act was solicited, aided, abetted, or consented to by the mother of the fetus.


(c)Subdivision (b) shall not be construed to prohibit the prosecution of any person under any other provision of law.




Definition of Malice

We refer again to California Penal Code, this time section 188 to define malice.


(a) For purposes of Section 187, malice may be express or implied.


(1) Malice is express when there is manifested a deliberate intention to unlawfully take away the life of a fellow creature.


(2) Malice is implied when no considerable provocation appears, or when the circumstances attending the killing show an abandoned and malignant heart.


(3) Except as stated in subdivision (e) of Section 189, in order to be convicted of murder, a principal in a crime shall act with malice aforethought. Malice shall not be imputed to a person based solely on his or her participation in a crime.


(b) If it is shown that the killing resulted from an intentional act with express or implied malice, as defined in subdivision (a), no other mental state need be shown to establish the mental state of malice aforethought. Neither an awareness of the obligation to act within the general body of laws regulating society nor acting despite that awareness is included within the definition of malice.


Now, I am sure you see a few words here and think there is nothing to this. But all of these statutes are backed up by case law, federal statutes, and many nuances. Since this is written by a private investigator and not a lawyer, you should consult a legal professional who is well versed in murder and homicide to understand more how your local penal codes may apply to a certain situation.


Defining Homicide

We can now share what homicide is and how it differs from murder. Again, it is important to know when you hire a private investigator, what exactly you want them to investigate and I am sure you have a good grasp of your particular situation, when communicating to your private investigator, it is important to be clear on whether you are hiring them for a homicide or murder investigation.


While both murder and homicide are regarding the death of a person by another human being, and equally disturbing, homicide is not murder unless there is malice and intent.


Homicide could be thought of this way: Bob is an excavator driver. Randy is a surveyor and is on a lot that is going to be built on. Bob and Randy work together as the excavator takes

Heavy equipment can be dangerous private investigation
This was the type of heavy equipment used in the investigation I reference

signs and information to get the building lot level.


However, Randy inadvertently gets distracted and is sighting a place on the plot where the excavator accidentally reverses onto Randy. Randy was not paying attention and had earphones in his ear and had just had an argument with his wife on the phone. He was distracted. Bob the excavator driver too had ear phones and was listening to music as he was driving this massive excavator. Bob did not see Randy and Randy did not hear the excavator that backed on top of him. Sadly, Randy lost his life. This is a real homicide that I investigated and can say that