U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert

A Proposed Code of Conduct, American Academy of Forensic Sciences, Jurisprudence Section, Code of Professionalism


This Code of Professionalism was proposed by the Jurisprudence Section of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences to provide guidance to its members in the performance of their professional relationships with forensic experts. The goal of the Code is to assist members in achieving the highest quality of professional conduct and to promote the cooperation between lawyers and forensic scientists which is essential to protect the legal interests of the public they serve.

In order to meet the public's need for legal services, lawyers and the quality of the service they provide must command the respect of the public as well as the other participants in the legal process. The fundamental principles set out in this Code are to provide an ethical framework for the Jurisprudence Section's members, although each lawyer must decide for himself the extent to which his conduct should rise above these minimum standards. The desire for the respect and confidence of the members of the society in which he serves and of the members of his profession should motivate him to maintain the highest possible degree of ethical conduct.

Lawyer professionalism includes accepting responsibility for one's own professional conduct as well as that of others in the profession and includes a desire to uphold professional standards and foster peer regulations to ensure each member is competent and public spirited. Professionalism also includes reinforcing and communicating the ideals of professionalism among our membership and eliminating abrasive or abusive conduct with others, particularly our colleagues in the forensic sciences. Such behavior does not serve justice, but tends to delay and sometimes deny justice.

Compliance with the rules depends primarily upon voluntary compliance, secondary upon reinforcement by peer pressure and public opinion, and finally, when necessary, by enforcement by the Court's inherent powers and ethics rules already in existence. The Academy, of course, may still sanction its members who are in violation of its Code of Ethics contained in the By-laws. Also, each state where the attorney is individually licensed may sanction the attorney for any violations of his state's Codes or Rules of Professional Conduct.


  1. "Belief" or "Believes" denotes that the person involved actually believed the fact in question to be true. A person's belief may be inferred from circumstances.
  2. "Expert" denotes a person who possesses special skill, training and knowledge in a vocation or occupation.
  3. "Knowingly," "Known," or "Knows" denotes actual knowledge of the fact in question. A person's knowledge may be inferred from circumstances.
  4. "Reasonable" or "Reasonably," when used in relation to conduct by a lawyer, denotes the conduct of a reasonably prudent and competent lawyer.
  5. "Reasonable belief" or "Reasonably believes," when used in reference to a lawyer, denotes that the lawyer believes the matter in question and that the circumstances are such that the belief is reasonable.


  1. I shall treat all expert witnesses with professional courtesy and will acknowledge their obligations to their codes of ethics or conduct, and will not ask them to breach their legitimate confidential relationships with their clients or patients.
  2. I shall verify the credentials of any expert witnesses I use.
  3. I shall not knowingly proffer an expert witness with fraudulent credentials.
  4. I shall report fraudulent experts to the appropriate authorities.
  5. I shall not pay an excessive fee for the purpose of influencing an expert's testimony or fix the amount of fee contingent upon the content of his testimony or the outcome of the case. I will communicate to the expert that he is being paid for his time and his expertise, not the nature of his opinion.
  6. I shall refrain from making any material misrepresentation of the education, training, experience or expertise of the expert witness. I shall not misrepresent nor mischaracterize an expert witness's credentials, qualifications, data, findings or opinion. I will not withhold nor suppress any relevant facts, evidence, documents or other material at my disposal that may be relevant to the expert's opinion.
  7. I shall not request nor require an expert to express an opinion on matters outside his field of expertise or within his field of qualifications to which he has not given formal consideration.
  8. I shall not attempt to prevent opposing counsel from communicating with my expert witness, nor will I instruct my expert witness to not communicate with opposing counsel about the subject of a lawsuit unless such contact is otherwise prohibited or regulated by law and the parties' attorneys have consented.
  9. Any and all demonstrative evidence shall not be intentionally altered or distorted with a view to misleading the court or jury.
  10. I shall keep all consulting and testifying experts reasonably informed of the status of the matter in which they are engaged and promptly comply with reasonable legally permissible requests for information.
  11. I shall compensate the expert for the total amount of the undisputed portion of the fee agreed upon between the expert and the client or attorney representing the client.

(Source: Carol Henderson, Director, National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology and the Law. Copyright 2000. Used with permission.)

Date Created: August 23, 2023