If you have ever watched televised trials, you may have noticed the use of expert witnesses. In many cases, this occurs in civil cases, such as those involving a personal injury. However, expert witnesses are also very common in criminal matters. In fact, these experts can provide a lot of useful testimony to controvert the prosecution's take on the facts. Learn more about how an expert witness can be a benefit to your criminal defense efforts.
What Does an Expert Witness Do?
As the title itself suggests, an expert witness is a person that can provide some sort of expertise to the case. As defined by the Federal Rules of Evidence in Section 702, an expert witness is a person who is qualified by special knowledge, skill, experience, education or training that is relevant to a factual issue in a case. Due to this person's qualifications, he or she is allowed to testify in the form of an opinion. The purpose of this testimony is to aid the jury to interpret the pertinent data or facts. In order for this type of testimony to be admissible, it needs to be based on sufficient facts, reliable principles and the proper application of such principles to the facts. Utah mirrors the federal definition of an expert in its own version of Rule 702.
As you can see, an expert witness differs from the typical "eyewitness" that appears in court. Most witnesses testify as to an observation that is part of their own personal knowledge. On the other hand, experts review the facts of the case and provide an opinion about what may have occurred. In this sense, experts do not testify from first-hand knowledge. Rather, they use their knowledge to explain the facts to the trier of fact.
In the Criminal Law Context
There are many different ways that an expert witness can support a criminal defendant. Sometimes, the defense will use an expert to explain forensic data. In these cases, a forensic pharmacologist or chemist may be necessary. Experts may also be used to testify about firearms and ballistics. Certain mental health professionals can also testify in matters related to psychology. Furthermore, it may even be necessary to use an expert witness in a DUI case. As such, the facts of any given case could potentially benefit from expert testimony.
At the end of the day, no case is too big or too small to benefit from expert testimony. If you believe your case involves complex medical or technical data, you should consider this option. Your first step should be to discuss the issue with an experienced lawyer. An attorney can help you determine if the cost of an expert is a good investment in your defense.
To learn more about benefits of expert witnesses in family law, business law or criminal defense, contact the law office of TR Spencer today.