Acceptance of Scientific Evidence in Court

Science, like the legal system, is impartial. When theory and methods of science are used to aid in the legal justice system it is known as forensic science. The collection, processing, and interpretation of physical evidences are elements of forensic science. But the question is “whether all evidences are scientific enough to get admissible in court?”

To know the answer to the question first we should have a quick look at the definition of scientific evidence. “Scientific evidence is data or information which is derived from scientific studies, methods, and techniques. Scientific evidence is collected in proven and appropriate ways to ensure that the process and the result have been performed ethically, safely, and under law and regulation.”

The trial judge’s responsibility is to determine whether evidence is scientifically legitimate under relevant statutory criteria and to accept or deny particular evidence, regardless of who is presenting it. Prior to the enactment of FRE 702 (Federal Rules of Findings, Rule 702), courts evaluated whether testimony regarding fresh scientific evidence was admissible by determining if it had “gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs.”

The Supreme Court ruled in Daubert in 1993 that the Frye test had been replaced by the 1975 Federal Rules of Evidence, notably Rule 702, although the Frye standard is still used in some states. The Daubert Court ruled that the standards regulating expert testimony simply did not support the notion that “general acceptance” of scientific findings is an “absolute requirement to admission.”

Scientific evidence is used in criminal proceedings to assist jurors to comprehend and evaluate the facts of the case. DNA analysis, fingerprinting, voice authentication, bullet striations (identifying marks), blood spatter, hair and skin evidence, voice recognition, tire prints, and medical reports are just a few examples of scientific evidence mostly used in criminal trials. Before a scientific hypothesis may be used as evidence in court, it must have gained widespread acceptance in the research community and become widely regarded as fact.

Improvements in forensic disciplines, particularly the use of DNA technology, have shown considerable promise in helping law enforcement identify offenders during the previous two decades. Many unsolved cases are now being solved thanks to forensic science’s assistance in identifying the offenders. However, the same advancements have also revealed that in certain cases, substantial information and testimony based on flawed forensic science studies may have contributed to the wrongful conviction of innocent persons.

Sometimes, forensic testimony exaggerates the importance of resemblances between evidence from a crime scene and evidence from an individual, or oversimplifies the facts. It may understate, minimize, or conceal the relevance of an analysis that indicates that an individual should be eliminated as a potential suspect.

Evidence of fingerprint matching is often acceptable as forensic evidence in court since it has been around for so long and has proved to be credible. While “matching” a cartridge to a certain rifle is an objective, it isn’t the sole use of such tool markings in evidence. However, an expert who proposes such evidence must demonstrate the soundness of the process for analyzing them in testimony. Furthermore, radar and laser speed guns are widely acknowledged as acceptable methods for determining a car’s speed at any given time and can be used as evidence.

The rules of evidence in a court will determine how scientific evidence may be presented in court, which is usually done by an expert witness. In law, scientific evidence is classified as opinion evidence, which means it is evidence provided in court by a witness of what that feels to be true about the facts of the case. The expert opinion does not apply just to scientific evidence. Rather, it oversees “scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge,” which necessitates awareness of the differences between scientific and technical evidence.

Each evidence produced by police should be accurate, factual, and scientific. It shouldn’t base on stories, hearsay, or anything which are questionable in the eye of the law. When police officials collect evidence then they also check for authenticity of the evidence. (Definition of evidence is given in Indian Evidence Act, Section 3).

When certain evidence is collected by police officials or crime scene investigators and sent for the examination then it is on the forensic scientists or forensic experts how and by which method they examine and analyze the evidence. They keep in mind what protocol they have to follow while processing the evidence, if any type of method is used to process the evidence which is not in use or prohibited then it would not going to admit in court. Not only the process should be scientific but the evidence which is going to be produced in court should also be scientific.

Courts should examine the substance of the testimony as well as the qualifications of the presented expert to see if their level of expertise and adherence to recognized scientific standards have been used to interpret analytical data when conducting an evidence assessment.

Generally, Courts used to rely on existing case laws for forensic evidence when it comes to forensic analysis in proceedings. It would not be wrong to say that the legislation is somewhat set in stone. When an Appellate Court ruling says one thing about the forensic evidence and new forensic technique and information says another thing about relevant evidence, a trial judge might find himself in a tough situation. When this type of condition arises, judges would have to be prepared to diverge from the prevailing condition of the law and make their own rules and decision according to the situation, facts and new findings.

Sometime, one side of a trial wants to present scientific data that has not yet been widely acknowledged by the scientific community, in that situation the court will readily order a mini-trial to assess the reliability of the scientific concept on which the evidence seems to be based. DNA evidence, for example, had to go through a number of mini-trials before even being accepted as reliable evidence in court. As new sorts of forensic evidence are admitted into court, mini-trials may become more common. Many scientists, for example, are actively working on developing functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) as a new sort of lie-detecting machine (this works by imaging, in real-time, the flow of blood around the brain).

The purpose of a trial is to discover the truth concerning contested issues. When the answer to a legal matter is based on science, one may expect the law to embrace scientific data that aids in the settlement of the legal question.

Some Scientific evidence example is DNA matching, Fingerprint identification, Handwriting examination, etc. But some type of forensic evidence still doesn’t have much scientific value or are considered weak evidence, such as; footprint, earprint, Lip print, Ballistics, Bite mark, etc. The history of bite mark evidence illustrates the need for a greater judicial understanding of scientific evidence admissibility. In the case People v. Marx, California was the first state to accept bite mark expert testimony in 1975.

In court data given by forensic scientists or forensic experts are relevant and admissible (Section 45, IEA), Handwriting reports, DNA matching, Fingerprint identification, Blood pattern analysis, skull superimposition, tool mark examination, medico-legal reports, etc. are considered to be reliable and consistent.

Not only we are depending on more scientific proof, but we’re also relying on a larger range of Scientific tools and techniques. Neutron activation analysis, atomic absorption spectrometry, electrophoresis, scanning electron microscopy, mass spectrometry, and gas chromatography, Sound spectrometry (voiceprints), psycholinguistics, and remote electromagnetic sensing are just a few of the methods that are currently being employed in criminal cases. With laser technology for viewing latent prints and computers for significantly more sophisticated searching capacity, even fingerprint identification has advanced into the high-tech age.

Some of the forensic disciplines in use may be capable of delivering consistent accurate findings, but there has not been enough study to confirm validity. Large, well-designed studies should be used to establish a method’s accuracy. The findings of the analysis cannot be evaluated without these investigations. Analyzing shoeprints to determine the unique source of a print is an example of a method that has not been thoroughly tested. Some forensic methodologies employed in criminal investigations have been shown in studies to yield inconsistently accurate results.

Sometimes, mistakes can be happened in crime laboratories, which may be varied from minor errors, such as mislabeling material, to testimony that exaggerates scientific findings, to criminal conduct, and Dry-labbing. Dry-labbing is a type of fraud in which an examiner falsely claims to have completed laboratory analyses that were never performed. it is a crime and if it’s noticed then proper punishment will be provided but, if it goes unnoticed, the consequences are not so bright. Innocent people may have to go behind the bars, criminals may release. When a mistake is unearthed, defense lawyers and prosecutors challenge the evidence’s legitimacy and admissibility, and indeed the court rejects the evidence. 

Scientific and forensic evidence can be contested in a variety of ways, including questioning the chain of custody of blood samples or a radar gun’s erroneous calibration. Many criminal defense attorneys are experts in scientific and forensic evidence and can request expert witnesses to testify on one’s behalf. Numerous criminal prosecutions have been dismissed as a result of flawed evidence.

The scientific method is a set of rules and procedures for performing experiments to test a theory, evaluating the findings, drawing conclusions from them, and then verifying those conclusions with several other experiments. To put it another way, the “truth” is continually evolving. Peer review, controlled testing, and error rates are all protections used in scientific fields to ensure that research and results are legitimate. Some of these methods have been borrowed by courts to decide whether scientific evidence should be accepted. As a result, when it comes to sorting out the legal reality, the law frequently trails behind the science because sciences must be thoroughly established before they can be effectively admitted in court.

The key reason to produce any forensic evidence is to ensure that justice is served fairly. Acquired evidence should be scientifically collected, analyze, and examined. This is done in an effort to punish the wrongdoer of the crime rather than the innocent person. In many situations, forensic evidence has always aided in identifying the real perpetrator, who is then sentenced by the court. The forensic evidence provided in court is more valuable than the common evidence presented in court. This evidence can be used to convict someone who may have committed the crime. When forensic evidence is employed, the court cannot be biased, and there is a very slim probability that the decision would be rendered in an unfair manner to the innocent. Though there are relatively few situations when there are errors in the evidence. More specialists should be rewarded for consistently supplying important information and evidence about the case, allowing the case to be solved on that basis.

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