Do you need to be a PI to do Forensics?

Do you need a private investigators license to practice forensics in Texas? Well in many cases yes.  If, for example, you are directly securing evidence and analyzing said evidence, then yes you do.  However there are exceptions. Frequently I am asked to render an expert opinion in court cases regarding forensic procedures.  According to the Texas Department of Public Safety a scientific review and even serving as an expert witness does not require a private investigator license “Section 1702.130 of the Texas Occupations Code defines an investigator as one who, among other things, “engages in the business of securing, or accepts employment to secure, evidence for use before a court….”  However, the mere fact that a person is testifying, even as an expert, is not dispositive, since the proposed testimony might not be based on an investigation.  For instance, the review of evidence exclusively provided or obtained by licensed investigators, or testimony in court related to such evidence, does not require licensure.  Such review would not constitute “securing evidence,” but rather the review of previously secured evidence.”(

There are other exception (also discussed on the above referenced TX DPS website), such as Network Vulnerability Scanning: “Because the department does not regulate software designers, installers, or suppliers, it also does not regulate those who provide consulting services related to computer network security.”

It is best to consult with the TX DPS documents yourself to ensure you are in compliance.  It should be noted that many organizations including the American Bar Association have objected to Texas (and a few other states) requiring a private investigator license in order to conduct forensic examinations, but as of this date, this is the law in Texas (with the exceptions noted above).


Chuck Easttom



About the Author:

I am a computer scientist, inventor, consultant, and author. I have over 20 years of professional experience in the IT industry, over 15 years teaching/training, and over 11 years in litigation support/expert witness work including 39 cases and testimony at trial, depositions, and hearings. I have authored 19 published books (including our on security, three on forensics, and one on cryptography), have 6 patented inventions, have been a guest speaker at multiple locations including the Harvard Computer Society, Columbia Chapter of the ACM, Southern Methodist University Computer Science and Engineering Colloquium, University Texas at Dallas ACM chapter, Hacker Halted security conference, Takedown security conference, ISC2 Security Congress, Hackon India, and multiple other locations. I have conducted training and provided consulting for major companies, law enforcement agencies (local, state and federal), and various government agencies as well as friendly foreign governments. I conduct research in cryptography, forensics, and related topics. I also consult on computer security and forensics.