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Understanding Frye Before Testifying as an Expert Witness

Frye and Daubert are the standards for expert witnesses that explain what the professional must accomplish to remain a designated witness for the trial case. There are many factors for vetting and qualifying the expert in the courtroom, and it is important that the professional first understand these criteria under Frye before testifying.

The Division of Standards

There were two major cases that helped to develop the governing standards for expert witnesses in both criminal and civil trials. These are the Frye and Daubert cases. Federal courts utilize the Daubert rules and state courts use both depending on the situation. Each state will use a different interpretation of the rules for the benchmark cases. This can affect the admissibility of testimony for experts in a field of study. Before the trial, the professional should have a working understanding of how the Frye and Daubert rules will determine how to proceed appropriately.

The Frye Standard

Reliability and relevance in the courtroom require different rules based on the Frye or Daubert standard. With Frye as the standard, the expert witness must base his or her opinion for admissibility on a scientific technique that
the expert community generally accepts as a reliable one. Often, this may require a better understanding of the science or testing methods of some process and could disqualify it throughout the scientific community because more testing is necessary for future use. This applies to the lie detector test.
If there is a need to consider general acceptance for some aspects of the case, the Frye standard can help.

Testing Methods

When an expert witness uses evidence and applies different testing methods, these processes must fall under already proven and accepted methods as per the scientific community in the subject matter. However, there is often some leeway in these generally accepted methods that may ensure that the expert can also use his or her own processes on evidence as long as they fall under the past proven methods used by similar scientific experts. This normally means that the results must remain reliable and error rates should not rise higher than five percent overall with a somewhat normal range that does not skew results.

General Acceptance in the Scientific Community

The scientific community with the Frye Standard has a certain general acceptance with testing methods used on evidence and other items. The professional hired for the case must use these general guidelines and apply his or her own testing methods with variables and constants that reflect what the scientific community uses. Additionally, anything that falls outside the general acceptance may disqualify the opinion or testing process the expert uses for the case or claim. This can also lead to a successful Frye challenge that ousts the expert from the case. Then, he or she may only assist as a consultant.

Possible Testing Method Violations

As per the Frye standard, the expert may cross the line when he or she uses methods that are between experimental and the demonstrable stages where it is difficult to know if the scientific community would accept the process. Without general acceptance in the field of study already a given, the expert may violate these principles and become disqualified for his or her activities. It is usually better to wait until these experimental methods are put through tests and then later accepted by the community before attempting to use them on evidence alone.

The Conflict and Testimony of the Expert Witness

One of the important problems is that the Frye standard is not the one used for federal cases. The general acceptance method is incompatible with testing evidence on a higher scale. When there is a need to push these process through with the entire United States, the courts believe that reliable and relevant methods and details are more important than the general acceptance of the scientific community. Knowing which standard applies is difficult unless the courts specifically state which standard to follow for the case when the matter is not through the federal courts.

The judge has a responsibility to oversee how the expert proceeds through both testing and testimony. He or she will need to ensure the professional has the necessary information to apply the correct standard to the case and follows the rules regarding how to test evidence and what testimony should contain. This then gives the expert witness the ability to base his or her testimony on the correct facts, information and processes within the claim or case he or she will present to the courtroom.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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