Practicing Digital Forensics in MA
June 18, 2007 1:17 PM   Subscribe

A few questions about being a digital/computer forensics practitioner in Massachusetts and licensing.

1) Is it true that to be a digital forensics investigator in MA, one must have a private detective license?

2) Is it true one can legally offer services as a digital examiner (instead of an investigator) and not have the license? I ask because it takes three years of working under a P.I. to qualify as someone who can get a P.I. License, and I don't want to do that. If examiners are different, where is this spelled out?

3) Is having a PhD in Computer Engineering or Comp Science and experience with digital forensics (e.g., encase certification) sufficient for practicing digital forensics investigations (or examinations) as a type of "license in a profession" described in Ch. 147 Section 23 paragraph 11?

4) Is there a quick way to get a P.I. license in MA without quiting my job and taking another one for three years under someone who has a license?

Some background on my questions: MA requirements for being a private detective and MA general law concerning licensing chap 147 sections 22-30. (link is to just 22, click next to see other sections.)

Thanks for your help.
posted by about_time to Law & Government (4 answers total)
I have worked with some computer forensics folks on legal discovery projects. I don't think there are any limits on the services you can offer as a computer forensics consultant in MA -- the people I know are not licensed as PIs or such. However, they are also all licensed attorneys, and it's my understanding that you need to be either a lawyer or an extremely effective/knowledgable expert witness to break into the field, since the risk of someone doing something legally boneheaded either in the field or on the stand is not acceptable.

So...I would suggest making sure there's work to be done and get a feel for the market before figuring out what license to get, if any.
posted by backupjesus at 3:02 PM on June 18, 2007

Yes, attorneys are exempt from needing licenses to do private detective work. I am not an attorney. I have the effective/knowledgeable part covered, which is why I want to know about the license part. Being an expert witness (or as you say "consultant") is actually simpler --- you just have to be accepted by the other side as an expert. For example, I could be called to testify as an expert about someone else's investigation, but that doesn't mean I could conduct my own.

There is definitely work in this area.
posted by about_time at 4:21 PM on June 18, 2007

You might try and ask people who already work in the forensics area in Massachusetts what they do. There is at least one company in Boston. I would give them a call and see how or if they are licensed.
posted by procrastination at 10:47 AM on June 19, 2007

Thanks ProC, I ran into someone from a prominent Boston digital forensics firm. He said that no one in the firm is a P.I. As I understand things, police and lawyers can investigate and recover items that can be brought into court. Anyone can investigate as a third party items that are seized by police, lawyers, or PIs. As that third-party, forensics investigator, whether you are accepted as an expert witness is up to the court (and the jury). IANAL, so perhaps I am wrong.
posted by about_time at 7:09 AM on July 16, 2007

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