Private Investigation Laws: Obstacles and Solutions

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2008-01-02 Print this article Print

The following are some common issues computer forensic specialists may encounter and some ways of overcoming or complying with legal limitations.

Depending on the jurisdiction and regulatory laws, computer forensic professionals may be subject to private investigator (PI) licensing requirements. The key word is "may," since each law is different and not always comprehensive.

The following are some common issues computer forensic specialists may encounter and some ways of overcoming or complying with legal limitations.

State requires PI licenses for digital forensics. By virtue of interpretation, this requirement will have two negative effects on enterprise investigation wherein digital evidence is used in criminal or civil proceedings: Consultancies hired to collect and analyze digital evidence will have to be qualified PIs in each state where they conduct investigations; and large services organizations could be considered a PI business when working on behalf of their clients.


  • Get legal counsel on any new state you work in.
  • Contract with reputable PI firms in other states.
  • Know how to select a reputable digital forensic firm.

    PI licensing requirements vary from state to state. Some states require the computer forensic specialist to take a test, while others require a number of years' experience working in law enforcement or private investigation, and hefty application fees.


  • Have good legal assistance to interpret each statute where evidence may take you to court.
  • Check for reciprocity agreements between licensing agencies. Many states accept each others' licenses.

    Training and qualification are costly in time and money. Most accepted digital forensic certifications are only available to law enforcement. Cybertrained ex-agents and -officers, whose work also qualifies licensed PIs, are the only ones poised to reap the benefit of these laws.


  • Earn a Bachelor's or Master's degree in computer forensics.
  • Go for law enforcement certifications. It's worth checking into your community college's justice academy because sometimes these programs, or some of their courses, are open to any student enrolled at the community college.
  • Become a Certified Computer Examiner (CCE)—the only accepted certification available to the private sector that's set for approval in upcoming forensic requirements.
  • Work with law enforcement to assist in investigations. This experience qualifies as private investigation hours.


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