Expert witnesses are just like any other witness with one exception: They are experts. That is not a joke or a flippant statement, it is a legal distinction for expert witnesses, unlike “lay” (or non-expert) witnesses, are permitted to express opinions to the Judge or jury. Non-expert witness are only permitted to say what they know (i.e. what they saw, smelled, felt, possibly heard, etc – matters of fact) whereas experts are permitted to speculate and opine, and this can be the difference maker in a given case.
Take for example the case of a DUI based upon a cop being dispatched to traffic accident where both roadside sobriety tests and a breath reading of .09 were acquired. You might want a licensed private investigator to interview witnesses and to take formal statements. This way if something contradicts what the cops (or the witnesses) say in Court you have an expert who can take the stand and offer contradictory evidence. You might also want an accident reconstructionist to review and recreate the accident scene so as to be able to provide expert testimony which contradicts that of the police accident investigator. You might want an expert in roadside sobriety exercises (usually a retired and very experienced cop who has left the “dark side” of law enforcement foe enlightened defense work) to ridicule the tests and an expert on the Breathalyzer to explain why the machine cannot be trusted. You might want a doctor, perhaps a neurologist, to explain the common effects on the brain that an automobile accident can cause and how that would predictably effect both one’s “normal faculties” (in the context of a DUI investigation) and how it could reasonably skew the officer’s observations.
Expert witnesses come in all areas but have one thing in common, they all charge fees (cost money). Your lawyer should always discuss with you the pros and cons of engaging experts and you would be wise to listen.
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