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Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert

Importance of Case Preparation

Photo of a judge, attorney, and witness convening near a stand in a courtroom. Caption reads, 'Law 101: The Importance of Case Preparation'
National Institute of Justice (NIJ) (see reuse policy).

After completing Importance of Case Preparation, the user should:

  • Recognize the value of the pretrial preparatory meeting.
  • Recognize the uses of and importance of using the scientific method.
  • Ensure that adequate facts are obtained before forming an opinion.
  • Remain objective and neutral when examining and reporting evidence.
  • Communicate, discuss and distinguish facts that do not impact the results.
  • Use lay terms and visual aids to assist with testimony.
  • Apply terminology correctly.
  • Comprehend how the results of the forensic testing fit into the overall theory of the case.
  • Recognize potential weaknesses/vulnerabilities of the technology.
  • Explain weaknesses in forensic testing methods.
  • Perform additional tests when appropriate to strengthen the reliability of the results.
  • Apply testing or conclusions to potential challenges in the immediate case.
  • Identify prior challenges in the discipline that were successfully resolved and led to remedies.
  • Distinguish nonforensic uses of the technology to demonstrate its acceptance in the broader community.
  • Ensure that the attorney understands the distinction between objective and subjective statements.
  • Ensure that the attorney is aware of the assumptions/presumptions implied or stated when formulating opinions, facts, or a combination of both when supporting conclusions.
  • Explain the limitations of the test results and give basic information about the science behind them.
  • Recognize the laws regarding the parameters of expert testimony.

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