Post Process

Everything to do with E-discovery & ESI

The Law of Unintended Consequences Strikes over PI Licensing Law in Texas

Posted by rjbiii on January 9, 2009

In the wake of passing amendments to Texas PI licensing laws (see our posts here), cities hoping to issue traffic tickets using automated cameras have run into an unexpected barrier: a court’s interpretation of those licensing laws:

Do the collection and evaluation of electronic records for use in court require a professional license? In litigation a mistake on this question can surprisingly cause a party to lose a lawsuit.

A Texas judge ruled the company operating a red-light enforcement camera (Affiliated Computer Services (ACS)) was acting illegally because it did not have a private investigator license. As the operator of the system, the company was Jim3 involved in collecting and evaluating electronic records for the purpose of presenting findings in court. This case has spawned an uproar statewide, where motorists (such as Jim Ash, citizen of College Station, Texas) are challenging traffic tickets, demanding repayment of fines they’ve paid and complaining about police and politicians who support automated (robo-cop) traffic enforcement.

In response, the company that runs the camera and associated technology has appealed to the State’s Private Security Bureau to help. Sayeth our informed blogger:

The Texas Private Security Bureau issued an opinion saying it “generally” believes the operators of red-light cameras need not be licensed as private investigators. The opinion may help us interpret law on the licensing of computer forensics experts.

The Bureau’s rationale is that the camera operators are performing mere “ministerial” actions at the direction of municipal government employees. (By qualifying its opinion with the word “generally,”the Bureau implies there could be exceptions.) In other words, the Bureau seems to believe the operators are not conducting the investigations that trigger a licensing requirement; rather, the municipalities are performing the investigations.

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