Police Officers Can Qualify as Expert Witnesses
Although it might seem like a clear conflict of interest, courts do permit prosecutors to qualify police officers as expert witnesses in various fields of expertise.
How To Defend Against Police Expert Testimony
In the case of People v Bynum, decided by the Michigan Supreme Court on July 11, 2014, the Court decided that a police officer who was an expert witness on gang-related issues could only testify about gangs and gang culture. The police officer’s testimony connecting Bynum to the crime was inappropriate propensity evidence. Michigan Rules of Evidence prohibit testimony that is specifically used to prove that a gang member acted in conformity with character traits commonly associated with gang members on a particular occasion. In Michigan, it is not axiomatic that police officers can provide testimony as expert witnesses, but this strategy is subject to attack by a skilled, aggressive defense lawyer.
At the trial court, the defense attorney put a general objection to the testimony. The trial judge allowed it, concluding it was relevant to prove motive. On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed Bynum’s conviction determining the testimony was inappropriate. The Michigan Supreme Court agreed.
Expert testimony is admissible if it is intended to assist a jury in understanding the evidence. If the evidence is within the grasp of a reasonable person, this evidence is not admissible. The purpose is to educate a jury – and not to present testimony that a person acted in a particular manner that would imply guilt. This decision is critically important because the use of police as alleged “experts” in gang, gun, and drug crimes is widely misused by prosecutors at the consent of uninformed or uncaring judges. Defense attorneys have become so accustomed to being overruled on this and other issues that they don’t even bother to object at trial, including police expert testimony, which deprives their client of a fair defense.
Michigan Criminal Defense Attorneys – Using the Rules of Evidence to Fight for You
The fear of a tough prosecutor or a prosecution-friendly judge never dissuades an attorney with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. from fighting for their client. Evidence issues can be highly complex, and many criminal defense lawyers do not sufficiently understand them to protect their clients at trial. It is essential that you have someone highly knowledgeable in the Constitution and the Rules of Evidence by your side throughout the trial to protect you against prosecutors who are only interested in getting you convicted and from judges who regularly turn a blind eye to due process. The need for an attorney who is well-versed in the Rules of Evidence is especially true when dealing with a police officer called to testify as an expert.
The attorneys at LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. are at their best when standing between you and the government. They are aggressive, knowledgeable, and vastly experienced in criminal law and evidence. If you face criminal charges, call us, and we will find a way to help you. If the prosecution seeks to elicit testimony of a police officer expert witness, we know what is necessary to fight to protect you.
Call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete a Request for Assistance Form. We will contact you promptly and find a way to help you.