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What Is an Expert Witness?

No two criminal cases are the same. Two percent of federal criminal cases went to trial in FY 2018. Less than one percent of all federal defendants won their cases.

If there is one thing that unites people who plead guilty and people who get acquitted, it is the expert witness. They provide essential information that can win a court case, yet few people understand who they are.

What exactly is an expert witness, and what can they do? What rules govern their testimony? How can you find and incorporate an expert testimony into your case?

Answer these questions and you can take a stand in court with the facts on your side. Here is your quick guide.

What Is an Expert Witness?

An expert witness is a professional who gives their testimony on technical or complicated matters that a court is facing. They are an educated and experienced professional in whatever line of work they are in. They can explain the issue, but they are offering their opinion first and foremost.

You may have heard of a witness of fact. This is someone who testifies to give a piece of evidence in a case.

Someone who testifies about a hit-and-run they saw is a witness of fact. They are not talking about a process or offering speculation. They are talking about what they saw, and lawyers will use their words for their argument.

An expert witness may use photographs of tire tracks and explain how they indicate where the driver went. They may describe the process of taking fingerprints and match them to the suspect. This helps the jury and judge understand the science better.

What an Expert Witness Cannot Do

The rules for an expert witness are narrowly tailored. An expert witness cannot advocate for one side or the other. One side may call the witness, but the witness must remain impartial and answer questions from both sides.

A witness cannot act as a negotiator. They cannot help both sides reach a consensus, and they can only modulate their views if they see evidence that changes their mind.

An expert witness cannot talk about anything outside their field of expertise. A doctor cannot talk about financial crimes. Even within their field of expertise, they cannot provide advice, including behind closed doors.

Impartiality is sacrosanct for witnesses. They must have no conflict of interest with anyone involved in the case. If they stand to benefit financially through their testimony, they must recuse themselves.

Rules and Tests of Admissibility

The Frye test is one of two rules of admissibility that focus on expert witnesses. It mandates that an expert witness must provide evidence that has “general acceptance” within the scientific community.

It is okay for them to perform experiments and offer a theory. But their theory must be something that other professionals in their field adhere to.

The Frye test is used by some states, but most judges rely on the Daubert standard. It mandates that an expert witness must provide a testable theory that is peer-reviewed. It must have high reliability and a low rate of error, and it must have general scientific acceptance.

The Federal Rule of Evidence 702 refers to the Daubert standard while describing the perimeters of expert witness testimony. It acknowledges that a witness may talk about their personal experience. But the witness must explain how their experience is sufficient evidence and leads to a strong conclusion.

Finding an Expert Witness

The best way to find an expert witness is to utilize your professional connections. Lawyers exchange contact information with each other and with other professionals. Look through your contact list and try to find someone who has free time to testify for your case.

When in doubt, go to a college or university near you. Nearly all professors have doctorates and extensive experience within their fields. Juries often see professors as credible and intelligent, which will bolster your own reputation.

There are certain expert witnesses that are hard to reach. Medical professionals are busy and have little time for legal proceedings, especially civil ones. But you can Google “legal nurse consultant, nurse expert witness” to find someone who can help you.

Calling an Expert Witness

Once you have found the best expert, you must prepare them for their time in court. The opposing side is allowed to ask questions and offer expert witnesses who will contradict yours. You must plan ahead and rehearse their answers so they seem credible and not rattled by your opponents.

You can depose an expert witness and have them testify outside the court. This does not mean that the opposing side cannot ask questions. Do a deposition if time is a concern, but you must follow the rules of discovery.

If you are going to call a witness before a jury, you must make the witness look as professional as possible. They should wear formal attire and sit in a chair with their back and neck straight.

At the same time, they should not come across as stiff. They should use casual diction and common terms to describe what they know. If it is appropriate, they can be humorous or colorful in their language.

The Essentials of an Expert Testimony

An expert witness can lead you to victory in a court. They explain a complicated process so the jury can make their final decision.

They are not a negotiator or an advocate for one side. They speak to a process that both sides are utilizing for their cases.

The Daubert standard mandates that experts provide testable and peer-reviewed materials. Try finding someone from a college, then walk them through practices so they speak comfortably in court.

Calling a witness is your first step toward winning a case. Find out more by following our website and checking out some other articles today.

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