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Who Can I Call as an Expert Witness?

By George Khoury, Esq. on May 24, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When going to trial, particularly in cases that involve technical or scientific evidence, having the right experts on your side can make or break a case. Not only does the expert need to actually be a subject matter expert, but having presentation skills, or just charisma, can be just as important.

Since many types of criminal charges rely on scientific evidence, such as drug or DUI charges, a common defense strategy is to rebut the prosecution's scientific evidence. If the prosecution presents an expert witness, calling your own expert in the same area may be necessary to refute the prosecution's expert. When considering who to call as an expert, the first step is deciding what kind of expert(s) you need. To do so, a careful examination of the facts is necessary in order to figure out which facts can be supported or disproved through expert testimony.

Who Can Be an Expert?

When it comes to who can qualify as an expert, any person with the requisite expertise will generally qualify under federal and state laws. However, whether the person, seeking to be qualified as an expert witness, actually has the requisite expertise to do so can be challenged in court.

Whether an expert can qualify to testify will often depend on the potential expert's depth of knowledge in the particular area. Typically, individuals who have practiced in an industry for a number of years, have taught others in a particular subject area, published books, or peer-reviewed literature, can be qualified with little-to-no objection.

The caveat to this is that a jury faced with competing expert opinions may end up consider the more qualified expert's opinion with more weight. For example, a practicing emergency room doctor could qualify to testify about current ER procedure; however, a jury might consider a retired ER doctor, who now writes analytical textbooks about ER procedure, to be a more convincing expert.

Why Experience and Charisma Matter

When it comes to who you want as an expert, the two most important factors to look at are experience and charisma. The most qualified expert with the most experience will often command the jury's respect. However, because matters that require experts can often be confusing to a jury, an expert that knows how to explain things to people can be worth their weight in gold. The best experts can explain why your position is correct, and the other side's position is wrong, without confusing a jury.

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