October 06, 2014 Articles

Do Computer Forensic Experts Need a PI License?

What makes an expert a credible witness?

By Gregory L. Fordham

It has become a common claim these days that computer forensic experts must have a private investigator (PI) license. The definition of PIs in most state occupational statutes is very amorphous. In fact, if followed literally, few would ever escape the requirement to have a PI license before doing anything; and the PI boards have been abusing the definition to gain membership by claiming that a requirement exists for computer forensic experts.

Some theorize that what is really happening is that anyone with a credit card and access to the Internet can perform a background check. Thus, the PI profession may be going the way of the elevator operator, and the various state licensing boards are battling against progress.

While licensing requirements are often raised in hopes of neutralizing a damaging expert, these arguments tend to fail. When they do succeed, it is likely due to the ambush value of such a tactic when it catches counsel in unfamiliar waters and unprepared for the undertow.

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