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Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert

Ethical Issues

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National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).

Forensic experts must be aware of ethical standards of conduct and the procedures that are proper and allowed.

Expert witnesses should remember that, in the legal system, attorneys are advocates. Their duty is to present a set of facts and proofs that support the state's (or the client's) position. Occasionally, zeal for the cause may unintentionally interfere with professional and intellectual independence.

The expert's integrity, reputation, and personal and professional self-esteem require that the conclusions reached and opinions espoused are supportable and based on the available body of facts and operative knowledge. Experts must always follow the scientific method, regardless of the final outcome.

The correlative of each of the negatives contained in this module should provide ample warning to the professionally responsible forensic witness and sponsoring attorney as to which methods and procedures should be used to avoid attacks by the opposition based upon fraudulent, unethical or improper conduct by the expert.

The objective is always to improve the quality of the criminal justice system. It is not designed to trap or trick serious and dedicated forensic witnesses who are attempting to assist the judicial system in resolving disputes.

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