How Essential an Expert Witness Is for Your Case?
The issues presented in a criminal case can sometimes be quite complex. When your case gets complex, you may need to secure an expert. An expert can help the judge or jury interpret and understand the importance of certain evidence that may be critical to your case.
At the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices, we work closely with a respected team of expert witnesses. We consult these experts whenever necessary to develop a strong defense for our clients. Having worked with a wide range of experts in many different types of cases, we can help you find the appropriate expert for your case. Then, we work with you and the expert to ensure that the expert’s testimony is presented in a compelling way.
What Is an Expert Witness?
Generally, witnesses in a criminal trial testify to what they perceived. A witness may be asked to recite what they saw, heard, or actions they took. However, they typically cannot provide their opinion on a subject. For example, a witness who testified to something a defendant said could not answer the question, What do you think they meant when they said that? This is because their answer would be an opinion. A witnesses’ opinion is a conclusion. In any criminal case, the judge or jury is solely responsible for drawing conclusions about what the evidence means.
Under New Mexico Rule of Evidence 11-702, “a witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.”
Expert witnesses are not allowed in every case. However, when a case raises complex scientific or technical issues that are beyond the understanding of the common juror, the court may allow you to call an expert witness. The expert can review evidence to develop their opinion, even if that evidence is not later admissible at trial. In some cases, a court may require an expert to produce the information they relied upon in developing their opinion, although that is not always necessary. Often, experts will compile their findings into a report to make the information more digestible.
What Types of Cases Need Expert Witnesses?
In theory, almost any type of case could require an expert witness. However, in practice, there are certain types of cases that call for expert witness testimony more often than others.
Complexity of Issues
One situation where experts are helpful is in cases where there are complex issues surrounding causation. For example, if someone’s cause of death is disputed, an expert’s testimony may help the jury determine which version of the facts it believes.
Another situation in which an expert witness can be crucial is in drug cases. They are especially helpful in possession with intent to deliver and drug trafficking cases. In these cases, an expert may be able to testify that, in their experience, the defendant possessed the narcotics for personal use and not for sale.
White-collar crimes frequently need expert witnesses, as well, due to the complexity of some of the schemes used to defraud investors. For example, either the prosecution or the defense may call a forensic accountant or a specialist who has experience investigating fraud.
DNA experts are important in many cases because the science surrounding DNA is not always simple or straightforward. In fact, it is not uncommon for two experts to have different conclusions when reviewing the same DNA data.
Other types of expert witnesses include:
- Breath test experts;
- Criminology experts;
- DNA testing experts;
- Drug recognition experts;
- Fingerprint examiners;
- Firearms and ballistics experts;
- Forensic chemists;
- Forensic pharmacologists;
- Forensic toxicologists; and
- Gang psychology experts.
One of the most important considerations when using expert witnesses is to choose the right type of expert for the case. It is also important to select an expert who is not only knowledgeable but also likable and able to hold up under cross-examination. An expert’s ability to bond with the jury is an important part of their testimony. So many times, attorneys focus on relatability when preparing an expert to testify.
Battle of the Experts
In most cases where attorneys use expert witnesses, the case comes down to a battle of the experts. This describes a situation where each side presents testimony from disagreeing experts. Thus, the jury must decide which expert it believes. In a battle of the experts, the ultimate issue may come down to which expert was more educated, more widely published, or more likable. Juries tend to place a tremendous amount of importance on expert testimony, as they should. However, this makes the expert selection process even more critical.
A dedicated New Mexico criminal charges defense legal team can help you determine what type of expert you need. A lawyer will also choose an expert that will fit within your overall case strategy, so you are all on the same page.
Do You Need an Expert Witness for Your Case?
If an officer recently arrested you or a loved one and charged you with a serious crime, reach out to the New Mexico Criminal Law Offices today. At our Albuquerque criminal defense law firm, we represent people facing all types of allegations. Whether this is your first arrest or you’ve been through the system many times before, we can help develop a compelling defense to the charges you face. We can connect you with one of the many respected experts we work with on a regular basis. With our help, you can rest assured that you are in capable hands. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with one of our lawyers, give us a call or connect with us through our online contact form.