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Case Against Private Investigator Licensing for Digital Forensic Examiners

NCJ Number
Forensic Magazine Volume: 6 Issue: 2 Dated: April/May 2009 Pages: 23-29
John J. Barbara
Date Published
May 2009
7 pages
This article examines the features of State private-investigator (PI) licensing laws in terms of their application to private-sector digital forensic examiners (computer-related evidence collection and analysis) and argues for accreditation and certification of digital forensic examiners instead of PI licensing.
In reviewing many of the State laws regarding PI licensing, it is evident that uniformity is lacking. Some States only require business licenses for private-sector digital forensic examiners (DFEs), and others require a specific PI license. Although some States will honor a PI license from another State, others will not. Another concern is that some States allow evidence to be introduced into trials even if the PI law has been violated in the course of obtaining the evidence. Another concern involves the varying qualifications needed to obtain a PI license. Three examples of typical PI licensing requirements are provided from Arizona, California, and South Carolina laws. In distinguishing between PIs and DFEs regarding the parameters for their work, the article notes that a PI investigates third parties who may not know they are under investigation. The PI can observe and record the subject while he/she is at home or work without notifying him/her of the documentation of their activities. On the other hand, when the DFE collects data and analyzes it for probative value, the data were obtained either with the consent of the owner or through court order (subpoena or search warrant). This distinction in the parameters for a PIs and a DFEs work should preclude DFEs being covered under PI licensing laws. This article argues that the licensing of DFEs is unnecessary. DFEs working in an accredited laboratory are already subjected to a quality assurance infrastrcture that is internally and externally monitored. 17 references