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What is Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence all about?
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What Is Rule 702
“Rule 702” refers to Rule 72 of the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE) titled “Testimony by Expert Witness”.
In essence, under the evidence Rule 702, a witness is permitted to testify in the form of an opinion if the witness meets certain qualification criteria.
Typically in court, you have two types of witnesses:
- Fact witnesses
- Expert witnesses
Fact witnesses are those who testify as to the “facts” of the case needed to establish a legal position.
Fact witnesses can only testify as to factual elements such as what they saw, heard, did, or experienced.
Expert witnesses are individuals who are legally qualified to provide an “opinion” based on the facts of the case.
An opinion is an interpretation or analysis of facts by someone qualified, experienced, and knowledgeable in the field.
Although every state has the power to adopt its own rules with respect to the admissibility of evidence, most have adopted the Federal Rule 702 or a modified version of it.
In 1975, the Federal Rules of Evidence was adopted which included rules regarding expert testimony.
Prior to that, the Frye Standard provided the “general acceptance” test for a person to be qualified as a witness.
In 1923, in the matter Frye v. United States, the District of Columbia Court provided guidelines with regards to the admissibility of expert witness.
Particularly, the court held that the scientific principles used by the expert should be sufficiently established and have gained general acceptance in their field.
The Frye standard was applied in many state courts and federal courts until the adoption of the FRE 702.
In 1993, the United States Supreme Court, in the matter Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., held that Rule 702 provides the legal basis for the courts to consider the admissibility of expert testimony.
Particularly, the Supreme Court indicated that Rule 702 supersedes the Frye Standard’s “general acceptance” test.
In Daubert, the court established a non-exhaustive list of factors that the courts must consider to evaluate whether or not an expert witness or opinion should be admitted as evidence.
The 702 Rule was broadly amended to allow for the courts to interpret the factors laid out by the Supreme Court.
Now, let’s look at the ‘Rule 702’ more closely.
Rule 702 of The Federal Rules of Evidence Overview
As of the writing of this post, the Federal Rules of Evidence Rule 702 reads as follows:
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: (a) 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; (b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data; (c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and (d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.
The wording of the rule is clear.
A witness is considered to be qualified as an expert by “knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education” if:
- If the expert’s specialized knowledge can help the court better understand the evidence
- The expert bases his or her opinion on sufficient facts
- The expert’s opinion is the fruit of reliable principles and methods
- The principles and methods are reliably applied to the case
Federal Rule 702 Takeaways
So what is the evidence Rule 702?
Let’s look at a summary of our findings.
FRE Rule 702 (Fed R Evid 702)
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