Before a court can accept the report or testimony of an expert witness, the judge must determine that the expert is qualified to offer his opinion. In 1923, the Federal Court in the District of Columbia determined in Frye v United States that in order for an expert witness to testify, he must demonstrate that his research and methods from which the testimony is based are sufficiently supported by accepted scientific practice. The Frye standard for expert witness qualification dominated the legal landscape until the Supreme Court changed the rules in federal courts with its decision in Daubert v Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals in 1993. The Daubert standard requires judges to evaluate the quality of expert witness testimony with a more critical eye than the Frye test by looking at three factors: 1. the expert’s testimony is based on sufficient facts, 2. the expert’s method of analysis is grounded and supported by his profession, and 3. the facts of the case were correctly applied using the expert’s analysis.
Under Daubert, a judge must look deeper into the quality of an expert witness’s testimony and analysis in order to determine if he qualifies – something that many states have embraced since it became the federal standard in 1993. In July of this year, Florida joined the growing number of states to make the switch from Frye to Daubert, but, according to a recent story in the Orlando Sentinel, not everyone is happy with the change. Florida prosecutors are concerned with the potential cost in time and money required to evaluate expert witnesses, and are unsure if the new law is beneficial for the system. Although critics of Daubert correctly point out that it adds time and effort to the process of qualifying an expert witness, the test is better than Frye at weeding out questionable expert testimony which could improperly influence a jury.