In the digital age, information stored, or transmitted, via computers can be essential to either a civil lawsuit or a criminal prosecution. As a result, computer experts are frequently called upon to retrieve information from a computer and/or analyze the information retrieved. Ultimately, the experts used in the case are frequently called to testify at trial. In order to become a computer expert witness, an individual must first complete the required education to be considered an expert in the field of computers and then develop a reputation for being knowledgeable, articulate, and persuasive in a courtroom setting.
In a civil lawsuit, computer experts are often used to analyze financial transaction or follow money trails. In criminal prosecutions, a computer expert may be needed to retrieve files that have been deleted or to trace messages sent from one person to another via e-mail, blogs, or social networking sites. Anyone who desires to become a computer expert witness may expect to testify at either type of trial.
The first step required to become a computer expert witness is to complete the required education in information technologies. There is no standard degree required to be a computer expert for purposes of a trial; however, the old adage "more is better" usually applies. A minimum of a bachelor's degree is usually desirable with most computer experts continuing on to receive a master's or doctorate degree.
While education is an essential step on the path to become a computer expert witness, practical work experience is also necessary. Expert witnesses are usually considered to be just that — experts, meaning that they are people who have extensive experience in the field within which they will be testifying. As a result, obtaining experience working for a firm or company that regularly does the kind of forensic or investigative computer work commonly needed for trials is advisable.
Once a reputation has been established, an individual who aspires to become a computer expert witness simple needs to offer his or her services to the appropriate parties. Both private lawyers and public prosecutors often make use of a computer expert. The requirements necessary to qualify as an expert computer witness may vary by jurisdiction. Within the United States, qualifying as an expert is done on a case-by-case basis. The court will look at the individual's educational background, work experience, and general reputation among his or her peers in the field to determine whether or not he or she may testify as an expert.