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From “Frye” to “Daubert”: How New Expert Testimony Rules Can Affect Your Case

In any criminal and civil case, both parties are able to bring admissible evidence into court to help prove that their side of the story is more likely than not to happen. Though civil and criminal cases have different standards for how convincing the evidence must be before a sentence or judgment is put forth to decide the case, it is the evidence that pushes the case in one direction or another. Ultimately, the rules and standards that determine which evidence may come in and which should not can make all the difference in deciding the outcome of the case. For a defendant in a criminal case, the difference can mean life or death, which is why evidence is generally considered in light of its relevance to the case and its prejudicial effect on the defendant.

The “Frye” Test and the Issues Surrounding Its Use

Recently, Florida has adopted a new evidentiary standard that will determine what type of expert testimony and evidence may be considered admissible and what will be found inadmissible and will be kept out of the record. In the past, Florida has espoused the Frye doctrine, which stated that if the expert provided testimony which supported a new or original scientific theory, principle or discovery, the theory must have received some general acceptance within the scientific community.

The purpose for this standard was to ensure that “junk science” and the scientific theories hatched in someone’s basement did not confuse jury members who may not know the difference between the two. Also, the new or original scientific theories that generally were being put forth under this standard were purely opinion, rather than subject to any type of standard other than “general acceptance.” The courts were left wondering how many scientists needed to espouse this theory to be considered “generally accepted”?

The “Daubert” Test and its Requirements

The new expert standard that Florida adopted last year is what is known as the “Daubert” standard, which is currently the standard in place in the federal courts system. It requires that any testimony that is scientific, technical, or requires some other type of specialized knowledge and is being provided by an expert with the relevant background and experience, must be:

  • Founded upon ample facts and data;
  • The result of valid and legitimate scientific/technical principles and methods; and
  • That the testimony being offered is a product of the application of the legitimate scientific/technical principles and methods.

In addition, the expert testimony not only needs to meet this standard, but the information’s probative value in helping the jury to understand the scientific/technical theory must substantially outweigh any prejudicial effect that it may have on the opposing party’s case.

The Effect of Switching from “Frye” to “Daubert”

The changes between the standards may seem minor, but they will have quite an effect on future criminal and civil cases and what type of information that an expert witness can tell the jury. Juries generally believe the information that they hear from an expert because he or she is qualified to speak about the issue; this, however, does not make the expert the only person and the only opinion that is valid. This is especially true in areas where the scientific community opinion may be split. One example is the value of a polygraph and whether or not it is a fool-proof test of whether someone is telling the truth or lying. (Most courts do not admit results from polygraph tests.)

Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

It is crucial to have an experienced criminal defense attorney, like Kevin J. Kulik, who understands how the change in the law may affect the admission of expert testimony in your case. Contact Kevin J. Kulik in Fort Lauderdale today for a free and confidential consultation.

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