Expert Witnesses in Salisbury DUI Cases
If you are charged with driving under the influence in Salisbury or elsewhere in Maryland, an expert witness will likely have some kind of impact on your case. Below, a Salisbury DUI lawyer discusses the use of expert witnesses by both the prosecution and the defense and the weight they are given in court. To learn more call and schedule a consultation with an attorney today.
Role of Expert Witnesses in The Prosecution of DUID Cases
In a drug DUI case, the state specifically may rely on two different experts. The first expert would be the drug recognition expert (DRE). That is a law enforcement officer who has received additional training to recognize and identify what drug a defendant may be under the influence of when driving the motor vehicle. The DRE would be instructed in how to perform a 12-step examination of the driver to determine if the driver was under the influence of a drug and, if so, what kind of drug.
Another expert is a toxicologist or someone who can interpret that blood sample and answer questions such as:
- What exactly does that blood sample say?
- What drug was in the driver’s system and what does that mean?
- Is it just a trace amount of a drug?
- Is that relevant?
- Is a trace amount enough to suggest that it was impacting the driver’s ability to drive safely?
Those are the sorts of experts that the prosecution would rely on to prove their case.
Role of Expert Witnesses in Building a Defense
The defense may call a retired officer who was a DRE when they were employed as a police officer. That expert may be able to indicate if the state’s DRE did not follow protocol or did something that would make the results of the examination unreliable.
The defense may also consider calling their own toxicologist to refute the testimony of the state’s toxicologist when they are testifying as to what the results of a toxicology report may show. The defense may want to call either the defendant’s doctor or another doctor to talk about if the defendant was taking a prescribed medication that they would be unaware of certain side effects of that drug. This expert might also talk about how they might not have been advised about drug interactions, if the defendant was taking prescribed medication and one doctor did not know about the other prescriptions that had already been prescribed and what the possible outcome might be when those drugs are taken at the same time or in the person’s system at the same time.
Importance of Having An Attorney Who Knows Good Experts
One of the most important elements of a good expert is credibility. That expert hopefully is someone who has testified as an expert before in court and are considered to be knowledgeable about the topic and they are being truthful and accurate with their testimony. Calling an expert for a defendant is of no use to the defendant if the expert doesn’t have credibility and sounds like they don’t know what they’re talking about.
It’s important for an attorney to know who they can rely on to be good expert witnesses and who needs to be avoided. You can learn a lot and find out about good experts by observing them in court, listening to their testimony, seeing they handle themselves during a court case, and even asking other attorneys in the field who they use and what they think of that person. A bad expert is of no use whatsoever. It would be best to have no expert versus calling someone as an expert witness who actually does more harm than good to your client’s case.
Weight Experts Are Given At Trial
How much weight they are given is completely left up to the finder of fact—whether it’s a judge or a jury. That expert’s testimony is given whatever weight the trier of fact believes it should be given. Credibility and knowledge are going to be what makes or breaks that testimony.
If each side has an expert, sometimes you certainly run the risk that they cancel each other out and the jury or the judge is hearing two completely different explanations for one piece of evidence. It can be confusing and it might cause the finder of fact to disregard both experts. Credibility is everything. There was a ballistics expert that was employed by the Maryland State Police. He was used for years. He testified in hundreds of cases and it was determined later that he had actually lied about his education. It called into question the reliability and the credibility of his testimony in hundreds and hundreds of ballistics cases. So it’s no understatement to say that credibility is everything when it comes to an expert.