Private Investigators In Virginia

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Private Investigator Licensing For Computer Forensics

Posted by Bill on June 7, 2008

Intersting article about private investigation licensing for computer forensics experts.

Bill Lowrance

President PIAVA

Summary. Some states define “private investigator” for PI licensing purposes in ways that can include digital forensics. State PI legislation invariably exempts lawyers, but the scope of that exemption may be limited to people who have an employer-employee relationship with the attorney, meaning that third-party digital forensics examiners (“DFEs”) may have to be licensed as PI’s. The limited scope of the attorney exemption could also bring what many consider as litigation support activities within the scope of state PI regulation. There can be criminal penalties for unlicensed PI’s and, in at least one state, for people who hire unlicensed PI’s.

DFEs operate in a fundamentally different manner than private investigators and PI regulation should not extend to digital forensics. To the extent there is regulation it should be consistent across the Unites States – the national and international scope of many companies and transactions means that many cases and investigations will necessarily be multi-jurisdictional and consistent rules are needed to avoid unnecessary burden and expense.

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3 Responses to “Private Investigator Licensing For Computer Forensics”

  1. Rob said

    As an IT professional I see this development as my “foot in the door” as an investigator. I’ve felt that for most of my career I have been an investigator of sorts; only instead of dealing directly with humans I’m trying to ascertain why a computer is acting improperly. Still, much of my work involves interviewing clients for pertinent details, sorting the useless bits from the useful ones, and presenting a logical explanation for apparently random behavior.

    So the argument may go the other way, but I know as an IT pro I’d love to see states enact such legislation – if only to give geeks like me a niche into the PI world.

  2. Bill said

    Thanks for the comment. Virginia has taken the position that computer forensic people must or should be registered and/or licensed to conduct independent forensic investigations. Of course, if a computer forensics firm is hired excluslively by attorneys there is no licensing requirement since Virginia attorneys are exempted from the regulatory requirements for private investigations.

    Bill Lowrance
    President PIAVA

  3. Texas PI/forensics legislation is causing problems for robo-cop traffic enforcement. A Texas judge said the company running a red-light camera was acting illegally because it did not have a private investigator license. On the basis of this ruling, motorists are challenging traffic tickets. See deails: http://legal-beagle.typepad.com/wrights_legal_beagle/2008/12/e-discovery-forensics-private-investigator-license-for-computer-data-collection-and-assessment.html –Ben

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