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Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert


Most terms used in this document are common nomenclature, or legal terms of art, but some words may have multiple interpretations. For that reason, a glossary of definitions for those words, as they are used in this text, appears in the Appendix.

Although experts must have specialized knowledge and experience in specific disciplines, they must explain these areas of expertise to many people less knowledgeable or experienced in these disciplines. Experts should be able to explain technical terms and complex processes clearly in plain, everyday language. Analytical reports, pretrial preparation with attorneys, testimony, trial exhibits and demonstrations should all be written in plain English and simple language. In addition, an expert's writing must be impartial — in fact, the expert should remain impartial in testing, report writing and testimony regardless of whether the expert works for one of the parties or the court.

This document also outlines the role of the forensic expert, from completing evidence analyses, to testifying in court in support of those analyses. Content is divided into modules designed to be read from start to finish for a broad overview, as individual chapters on specific aspects of analyses and testimony, or as a primer or refresher on a particular topic.

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