Florida rules on expert witness testimony change July 1. Polk County will now use “Daubert” test for expert witnesses.

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The Florida legislature has adopted a new standard for the admission of expert witness testimony in Florida criminal and civil cases.  In the past, Florida courts have used the Frye standard which allowed an expert to testify if the expert opinion was based on a scientific technique that is generally accepted as reliable in the relevant scientific community.  The Frye “generally accepted” standard is being replaced by the “Daubert” standard which comes from the United States Supreme Court case Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, 509 U.S. 579 (1993).

The Daubert rule has been codified in Federal Rule 702 “TESTIMONY BY EXPERT WITNESSES” which states:

A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

Basically, Daubert makes the judge the “gatekeeper’ in determining whether scientific evidence is admissible in court.  The Daubert test is designed to broaden the judge’s authority to admit evidence that was not acceptable under the Frye test, because, although credible, the scientific evidence was not generally accepted.

This will allow criminal defense attorneys to challenge scientific evidence under the new standard such as field sobriety tests.  It will also allow defense attorneys to potentially get evidence into court that was previously inadmissible such as lie detector tests.

Science is increasingly playing a major role in criminal cases.  This includes DNA evidence, fingerprints, arson, forensic computer analysis, shaken baby syndrome, hand writing analysis, etc.  One reason why shows such as “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” are so popular on TV.  Because of this, I attend national seminars on forensic sciences so that I can keep up with the latest developments and case law regarding scientific evidence.  Not only did I just attend the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ seminar “Making Sense of Science VI”, this evidence is so important I ordered the DVD of the seminar so that I can refer back to it when I need this information to defend my clients in court.  Many criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors are unaware of this major change in the law.

If you have been arrested and your freedom or career is in jeopardy, you need an attorney that knows the law defending you in court.

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