±Forensic Focus Partners

Become an advertising partner

±Your Account


Forgotten password/username?

Site Members:

New Today: 3 Overall: 36459
New Yesterday: 5 Visitors: 145

±Follow Forensic Focus

Forensic Focus Facebook PageForensic Focus on TwitterForensic Focus LinkedIn GroupForensic Focus YouTube Channel

RSS feeds: News Forums Articles

±Latest Articles

±Latest Videos

±Latest Jobs

P.I. licensing (USA issue)

Discussion of legislation relating to computer forensics.
Reply to topicReply to topic Printer Friendly Page
Forum FAQSearchView unanswered posts
Page 1, 2  Next 

Senior Member

P.I. licensing (USA issue)

Post Posted: Jul 24, 13 21:41

This issue has reared it's ugly head again. I work for a mid-sized accounting firm doing computer forensics across our footprint. Today, I got a call from a potential client who wants work done in Pennsylvania. I don't have a P.I. license in Pennsylvania, so I looked up how difficult that was to obtain and was blown away by the requirement that all private investigators must have 3+ years as a sworn law enforcement officer. For reference, here's a link to the 1953 law: www.pali.org/wp-conten..._1953.pdf.

Section 12(11) rolls digital forensics up under this law, and burried in the middle of Section 14(a) is this gem:
Every such applicant shall establish, [that he] has been regularly employed as a detective, or shall have been a member of the United States government investigative service, a sheriff, a member of the Pennsylvania State Police, or a member of a city police department of a rank or grade higher than that of patrolman, for a period of not less than three years.

Now, I am not a lawyer, and maybe there's some case law that exempts us, but from a literal reading of this law, I don't see how anyone who isn't former law enforcement can operate in Pennsylvania.

I thought South Carolina was a little crazy with the requirements, but how can anyone operate a digital forensics business in PA?

As much as I hate additional regulation, I think we do need some kind of federal guidelines for digital forensics investigators that would trump state law. It's expensive and time consuming to be licensed in multiple states, and there are places in the country, like PA, where I just can't work at all.

Thoughts? Do you provide services in multiple states? How do you handle this?  

Senior Member

Re: P.I. licensing (USA issue)

Post Posted: Jul 24, 13 21:59

I thought that this was the reason for the CDFS... cdfs.org/  


Re: P.I. licensing (USA issue)

Post Posted: Jul 24, 13 22:09

I believe you'll find that the requirement is three years as a detective (PI) or as a sworn law enforcement officer.  

Senior Member

Re: P.I. licensing (USA issue)

Post Posted: Jul 24, 13 22:28

Harlan--The CDFS is great, but how do you handle working in multiple states now? Most states have their own licensing requirements, and sometimes there is a very high bar just to be licensed. Without exception, it takes time to apply and become licensed, so if a client calls with work in a state in which you are not licensed, do you just outsource the imaging? I try to avoid that because it just makes the chain of custody more open to challenge.

austininvestigator--you may be right. I saw several mentions on PA P.I. forums about a requirement to have law enforcement experience. And, since I saw it in an Internet forum, it's definitely true...right? My firm's attorneys are looking into this now.  

Senior Member

Re: P.I. licensing (USA issue)

Post Posted: Jul 24, 13 23:10

... of a rank or grade higher than that of patrolman, for a period of not less than three years...

... and never taunted a police dog... Shocked :

In Pennsylvania, it’s illegal to taunt a police dog.

And before you say anything, this one is a real Law, actually applied:
Though hopefully temperating it with some mercy:

And no, it's not even a "unique" case:

- In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is. - 

Senior Member

Re: P.I. licensing (USA issue)

Post Posted: Jul 25, 13 01:10

In Arizona its never been an issue. No one asks and its never brought up. We have one guy on staff who has a P.I. license with a friend of his, but all that was required to get that was a letter and a fingerprint card. He can get one in his name after 3 years, but again its never been an issue. I think where the problem comes up is when you use the term "investigation" in regards to forensics. We for instance use the term "examiner" or "expert witness" for our titles, investigations is never brought up. Obviously laws vary from state to state, but do some research to see if you REALLY need it.  

Senior Member

Re: P.I. licensing (USA issue)

Post Posted: Jul 25, 13 02:16

The problem, at least here in SC, is that there have been a couple aborted attempts to change the law. The SC Law Enforcement Division 5 years ago wouldn't have said you need a license, but they were wrong. Now that there's some publicity about the issue, attorneys know about it and will use it to challenge evidence.

I mentioned I work for a CPA firm. There has been one CPA in SC charged with conducting an illegal investigation (a felony) that was plead to a lesser charge. Virginia has has a similar case, and that person was convicted (also a felony). These are career-ending convictions. I don't have any examples of digital forensics examiners being charged, but most digital forensics examiners in SC are licensed already. If the state is going after CPAs who are conducting forensic accounting investigations, I'm sure they'll go after unlicensed digital forensics examiners.

Where I struggle the most is with the jurisdictional patchwork of laws. I may need to image something in Texas (a state very agressively enforcing these laws), conduct the investigation in my office in South Carolina, and testify on it in Virginia. Do I need to be licensed in all three states? Perhaps.

Also, requiring PI licenses for digital forensics examiners adds nothing to the quality of the work. Traditional PIs are not qualified to do digital forensics any more than I am qualified to conduct surveillance, but the same license is required for both in many states.

BTW, you may want to check Arizona again. I have spoken with another examiner in your state, and her firm is licensed as are all of her examiners.  

Page 1 of 2
Page 1, 2  Next