Computer Forensic Expert Witness Regulation

South Carolina, along with other states, is tightening regulations that must be met in order for a computer forensics expert witness to testify in court. A South Carolina bill would only allow computer forensic expert witnesses to testify in court if they are employed by businesses that primarily engage in legal work or divorce cases. This would result in the experts needing a PI license if they wish to testify in court. Joel Hruska of Ars also writes:

As Baseline Magazine reports, there’s a significant amount of controversy over whether such legislation will improve the quality of digital forensic testimony or damage it. The South Carolina law is meant to ensure that the expert testimony offered by computer forensic investigators actually is expert testimony. Ensuring that such testimony meets a certain standard of quality is in both the state’s and the accused’s best interest.

Critics, however, worry that the new South Carolina legislation will put the title of computer forensic expert in the hands of PIs across the state who are utterly unequipped to handle real computer forensics. Such an outcome would lower the quality of digital forensic analysis available to both the state and to defendants; it could potentially affect trial outcome.

South Carolina seems to have a good instinct here, even if the state’s PI license requirement doesn’t jive with the realities of what’s needed to ensure good expert testimony. The field of computer forensics is quite new, and the methods for assessing it are even more so. Ultimately, it may take a series of legislative initiatives before the various states considering such laws find a proper balance.