Expert Witnesses in DUI Litigation, the Affect of Daubert in Criminal Trials
Describes strategy used by defense attorneys using expert witnesses in DUI cases.
AnalysisEffective DUI litigation requires innovation and creativity, and at the same time, one must not lose site of the limitations of resources, such as court time and money. Expert witnesses are a great help in many situations throughout DUI litigation, but the limitation of resources is of greater importance when experts are used and resources must be used wisely. An attorney needs to know, first, whether hiring an expert would be beneficial to the case. Then, if an expert could be useful, an attorney must know how to hire the right expert for the case. The attorney must then be able to use the expert effectively. Finally, the attorney should be mindful of the limited amount of time and money available to the client, and use the expert efficiently. On July 1, 2013, Florida Statute 90.702 was amended, and Florida altered the standard concerning the admissibility of expert witness testimony. The possibility of altering the course of DUI litigation was a center piece of discussion amongst attorneys as the statute was to take effect. Now, more than a year after it has been the law, the new standard has built its foundation with case law from Florida's circuit courts. This foundation has shed light on the course of future use of expert witnesses in DUI litigation. The first opinion issued on the subject in a DUI case was issued in August, 2013 out of Volusia County. The defense attempted to exclude alcohol breath test results from an Intoxilyzer 8000 using an expert witness's testimony. The defense bar got out of the gate quickly, as the Court found that the defense's expert witness qualified as an expert and his opinions were admissible under the new standard. The initial energy faded quickly as the Court found that the expert's opinions did not raise "legitimate questions" concerning the Intoxilyzer 8000's reliability, and the breath test results were admitted. The first case shows that the opinion of an expert may not always help a case, and the defendant could have saved on the cost of hiring an expert and used the funds for a more favorable strategy. A month later, another opinion was issued out of Alachua County. This time it was the prosecution using the new standard to exclude the testimony of a defense expert witness. The Court found that the witness was not an expert, so he could not testify. Adding salt to the wound, the Court stated that even if the witness was an expert, the proposed opinions were inadmissible. This same witness was the subject of the following two cases, and indicates that if the attorney had properly prepared the witness, the expert could have had a greater impact on the case. In Broward County, the Court addressed a similar objection from the prosecution concerning the same expert witness that was the subject of the Alachua opinion. The Court first stated that it would have to hear the actual opinion from the expert, not just the topics of the expert's discussion from the defense attorneys, in order to do a proper analysis. Regardless of the lack of direct opinions from the expert, the Court determined that the expert could testify as to about a third of the proposed areas of testimony. Perhaps the defense benefited from the Alachua case in its preparation, but this case highlights the importance of having an attorney that knows how to use an expert witness and the strategy involved balancing the secrecy of the defense trial strategy while still successfully getting the court's permission for the expert to testify. The next opinion, also out of Broward County, again addressed a prosecution motion to exclude the testimony of the same expert witness the defense had used in the previous 2 paragraphs. The Court ruled that Field Sobriety Exercises were not a proper subject for expert witness testimony, and that a witness testifying to what occurred on a video without being present was improper. Here the Court analyzed the area of discussion without evaluating the expert or his opinion. This case highlights the importance of an attorney knowing when to use experts, and using them efficiently. The prosecution continued to attack the admissibility of defense expert witnesses in DUI trials. The defense countered by arguing that the State was making its law enforcement officers experts by discussing their training and experience, and that the defense should be allowed to have its expert witness counter those opinions. The Court found that an officer's training and experience goes to the credibility of the testimony and does not to qualify them as an expert on a subject that was inappropriate for an expert to testify on. Another case then came out of Miami-Dade and again the State was challenging the admission of the defense expert's testimony. The Court found that the witness was not an expert, despite some qualifications, and discussed in detail what it takes to be considered an expert witness. Once again, a client could have saved money and time had the attorney properly evaluated the qualifications of their expert witness. Finally, in the most recent opinion, the Court ruled that breath tests results from an Intoxilyzer 8000 was not a proper topic for expert witness testimony. As you can see from the previous cases, certain topics are off limits for expert witnesses, while other topics are proper for an expert, and when used effectively, allow the expert to have a tremendous impact on the case. When fighting a DUI case, contact an attorney, and discuss their knowledge of expert witnesses. If used properly, expert witnesses can greatly increase the chances of victory in court, and when used improperly, they can costs significant time and money with little to no effect on the case.
Common expert topicssIntoxilyzer 8000 and its operating procedures, medical conditions of the Accused, Absorption and excretion of Alcohol , accident reconstruction