Standards for Certified Forensic Investigators
1. These Standards are the minimum standards that should be met by all Certified Forensic Investigators (CFIs) conducting investigative engagements.
2. Engagements performed by Certified Forensic Investigators must be performed with due care and with an objective state of mind.
3. Before accepting an engagement, Certified Forensic Investigators should determine that he or she has the knowledge, experience and skills required to perform the engagement.
The following attributes and skills are generally required in a forensic investigator engagement:
4. The forensic investigator should ensure that he or she has a sufficient understanding of the engagement objectives and that the terms of engagement are compatible in terms of scope and substance to allow the forensic investigator to meet the standards of the profession, and as may be required, obligations to the trier of fact or other forum.
Absent exceptional circumstances, an engagement letter and/or understanding should be employed for external investigations that sets out:
For internal investigations, it is good practice to prepare a memorandum to file setting out information such as the objective(s) of the engagement, the type of communication requested (oral and/or written report), the intended purpose of the report, the engagement staff, a tentative work schedule, and any scope limitations.
5. The forensic investigator should acquire an adequate knowledge of the subject matter and of the environment specific to the engagement, including such means as, where appropriate, discussions with the client and the client’s lawyer or other professional advisors, visits to the premises, review of relevant documentation, and interviews with appropriate persons.
A CFI is expected to exercise professional judgement in determining the extent of effort required to obtain an adequate knowledge of the subject matter and of the environment specific to the engagement.
6. The forensic investigator should adequately plan the engagement and supervise the persons performing the engagement.
Planning determines the nature and schedule of the work to be performed. It consists of establishing specific objectives, determining steps to be taken, and defining the work in order to control the conduct of the engagement, given time and cost constraints, the information and resource persons available, and the freedom granted to carry out the work. The facts and circumstances of each forensic investigative engagement are unique and should be carefully reviewed to develop a suitable action plan that sets out the engagement's objectives and the methods and resources used to attain them.
Given the nature of forensic investigative engagements, an inductive approach to planning is usually adopted. This means that the planning needs to be continuous since the circumstances of the engagement change as new facts are brought to light by the forensic investigator's work and as events unfold. Persons conducting the engagement should be continuously informed of new facts that emerge and of changes in the nature and conduct of the work. The extent of other persons' involvement in the engagement will be determined at the planning stage, as will the amount of supervision to be exercised. The amount of supervision will vary depending on the experience of the person performing the engagement and the complexity of the tasks assigned to them. The work, however, should normally remain under the forensic investigator's supervision and control to ensure that the probative value of the report cannot be successfully challenged. Moreover, in engagements where the forensic investigator is to act as an expert witness, he or she should be involved in overseeing the work and in the preparation of the report to the extent necessary to be sufficiently familiar with the case to answer questions and to be properly prepared to undergo cross-examination.
7. The assessments and analyses of the forensic investigator should be based on facts, relevant information, appropriate and accepted theoretical concepts and, if applicable, on consistent and reasonable assumptions.
8. When forming a conclusion, the forensic investigator should support the conclusion with sufficient appropriate evidence
The forensic investigator should gather the information and evidence required to support his or her conclusion, such as analyses, interview notes, written statements and supporting documents. In order to assess the sufficiency and appropriateness of the evidence, the forensic investigator should account for alternative theories that might explain the evidence when taken as a whole or in significant part, and consider whether the evidence in support of any theory or opinion is admissible in law, and is sufficiently persuasive to support the conclusion reached. To determine whether the evidence is sufficiently persuasive, the forensic investigator should consider both quality and quantity as well as the chain of custody.
9. The forensic investigator should adequately document the work performed.
Documentation usually includes working papers explaining the methods used, the analyses made, basic facts, the data collected, the assumptions adopted, the conclusions formed, and the evidence gathered and upon which the conclusions are formed.
Since the working papers may sometimes be produced in court, the forensic investigator should ensure that they contain relevant information in support of conclusions. The information, the evidence gathered, and the work performed should be documented in a clear, concise and orderly manner. CFI’s should comply with the applicable rules of the anticipated forum and exercise professional judgement in determining whether to retain draft reports and draft working papers.
Any subsequent discovery of errors should be memorialized separately. The process of investigation is an inductive process of trial and error that can result in computational errors, careless misstatements, misinterpretations, and other mistakes. The forensic investigator should identify and describe any such errors and be prepared to clearly provide his or her reasoning as to why revisions were considered appropriate.
10. The forensic investigator may communicate the results of his or her work in the form of an oral and/or written report.
Oral reports can be used to provide information on the progress of the work, to communicate preliminary findings or to suggest possible approaches and procedures. However conclusions are normally expressed in the form of a written report.
The report of the forensic investigator should be understandable, well organized, supported as appropriate by evidence and working papers, and should be internally consistent. The report of the forensic investigator should:
The nature, content and form of the report may vary depending on the nature of the engagement and the objective and intended purpose of the report. In an engagement where the forensic investigator may he required to act as an expert witness, the report must comply with the requirements of the forum in which the forensic investigator will present the evidence.
11. A forensic investigator providing testimony as an expert witness should provide unbiased and objective testimony in relation to matters within their expertise.
12. The forensic investigator has a duty to cooperate with other professionals hired by the client, and to the extent that it is compatible with the terms of the engagement and rights of privacy and confidentiality of the client, with other investigating professionals.
A reputation for stalwart, professional conduct is essential for the investigator to encourage a free-flowing exchange of reliable information between the professionals.
13. The forensic investigator should assess whether it is appropriate to internally review completed or terminated engagements.
If it is determined that an internal review is appropriate, this review should result in a series of recommendations for improvement as part of a program of quality control and continuous improvement that must be part of every forensic investigator’s practice.