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Computer forensics is a relatively new technique used by law enforcement agencies when attempting to secure evidence against a suspected criminal. In the digital age, almost everything a person does leaves an electronic signature which can be traced by someone who is an expert in computers. Often, a computer forensics expert is needed to testify at a trial. An individual who aspires to become a computer forensics expert witness must have a combination of the requisite education background and work experience. Additionally, a computer forensics expert witness should have a general reputation as an expert among his or her peers.
In order to become a computer forensics expert witness, an individual must have the proper educational background. While this may vary somewhat by jurisdiction, it generally entails a minimum of a bachelor's degree in computer forensics or information technology. As a rule, an advanced degree such as a master's or doctorate degree is preferred before most courts will allow a potential witness to become a computer forensics expert witness. While in college, a student should seek part-time or summer employment in the information technology field if possible.
After completion of his or her degree, an individual who plans to become a computer forensics expert witness must obtain employment in the field. Law enforcement agencies in most jurisdictions hire computer forensic experts on a regular basis. Once hired, a computer forensics expert may be required to analyze computers for clues to a crime or retrieve data that has been erased or deleted off of a computer, among other job responsibilities. While employment in the field is certainly a starting point, most courts will expect an expert witness to have supervisory or teaching experience in the field in order to be considered an expert in the field for purposes of testifying.
While the process for determining who is qualified to testify as an expert witness may vary by jurisdiction, in the United States, the parties must either agree that the witness is an expert or the court will make an independent determination. If the court is called on to make a determination, then the judge will swear the witness in and ask him or her a number of questions under oath regarding his or her educational background and work experience. The judge may also be looking for some indication that the potential expert witness is regarded as an expert in the field. After hearing the testimony, the judge will decide whether or not the witness is allowed to become a computer forensics expert witness.
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