Georgia’s New Evidence Law and Expert Testimony in DUI Cases
Posted by Ben Sessions | | Uncategorized
Effective January 1, 2013, new evidence law began to apply in Georgia DUI cases. The legislature undertook a great deal of effort bringing Georgia evidence code into line with the federal rules of evidence. However, consider O.C.G.A. § 24-7-702 and it’s purported modification of the rules regarding admissibility of expert testimony. You will see in it that the “DUI exception” to the law remains alive and well.
Why is it that a DUI defendant and any criminal defendant is not given the same protection against expert testimony that lacks an adequate foundation as a litigant in a civil case? How would such a baseless distinction between these cases be upheld in light of an equal protection challenge? Why is defendant-friendly expert testimony in DUI cases treated so differently than the State’s “expert” testimony?
The State/Government did a great job of insulating their evidence against challenge by lobbying in favor of a retention of the pre-January 1, 2013, rule regarding the admissibility of “scientific” evidence in DUI and criminal cases.
O.C.G.A. § 24-7-702. Expert testimony; qualifications as expert.
(a) Except as provided in Code Section 22-1-14 and in subsection (g) of this Code section, the provisions of this Code section shall apply in all civil proceedings. The opinion of a witness qualified as an expert under this Code section may be given on the facts as proved by other witnesses.
(b) If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if:
(1) The testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data;
(2) The testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(3) The witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case which have been or will be admitted into evidence before the trier of fact.
(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (b) of this Code section and any other provision of law which might be construed to the contrary, in professional malpractice actions, the opinions of an expert, who is otherwise qualified as to the acceptable standard of conduct of the professional whose conduct is at issue, shall be admissible only if, at the time the act or omission is alleged to have occurred, such expert:
(1) Was licensed by an appropriate regulatory agency to practice his or her profession in the state in which such expert was practicing or teaching in the profession at such time; and
(2) In the case of a medical malpractice action, had actual professional knowledge and experience in the area of practice or specialty in which the opinion is to be given as the result of having been regularly engaged in:
(A) The active practice of such area of specialty of his or her profession for at least three of the last five years, with sufficient frequency to establish an appropriate level of knowledge, as determined by the judge, in performing the procedure, diagnosing the condition, or rendering the treatment which is alleged to have been performed or rendered negligently by the defendant whose conduct is at issue; or
(B) The teaching of his or her profession for at least three of the last five years as an employed member of the faculty of an educational institution accredited in the teaching of such profession, with sufficient frequency to establish an appropriate level of knowledge, as determined by the judge, in teaching others how to perform the procedure, diagnose the condition, or render the treatment which is alleged to have been performed or rendered negligently by the defendant whose conduct is at issue; and
(C) Except as provided in subparagraph (D) of this paragraph:
(i) Is a member of the same profession;
(ii) Is a medical doctor testifying as to the standard of care of a defendant who is a doctor of osteopathy; or
(iii) Is a doctor of osteopathy testifying as to the standard of care of a defendant who is a medical doctor; and
(D) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Code section, an expert who is a physician and, as a result of having, during at least three of the last five years immediately preceding the time the act or omission is alleged to have occurred, supervised, taught, or instructed nurses, nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, physician assistants, physical therapists, occupational therapists, or medical support staff, has knowledge of the standard of care of that health care provider under the circumstances at issue shall be competent to testify as to the standard of that health care provider. However, a nurse, nurse practitioner, certified registered nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, physician assistant, physical therapist, occupational therapist, or medical support staff shall not be competent to testify as to the standard of care of a physician.
(d) Upon motion of a party, the court may hold a pretrial hearing to determine whether the witness qualifies as an expert and whether the expert’s testimony satisfies the requirements of subsections (a) and (b) of this Code section. Such hearing and ruling shall be completed no later than the final pretrial conference contemplated under Code Section 9-11-16.
(e) An affiant shall meet the requirements of this Code section in order to be deemed qualified to testify as an expert by means of the affidavit required under Code Section 9-11-9.1.
(f) It is the intent of the legislature that, in all civil proceedings, the courts of the State of Georgia not be viewed as open to expert evidence that would not be admissible in other states. Therefore, in interpreting and applying this Code section, the courts of this state may draw from the opinions of the United States Supreme Court in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993); General Electric Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136 (1997); Kumho Tire Co. Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999); and other cases in federal courts applying the standards announced by the United States Supreme Court in these cases.
(g) This Code section shall not be strictly applied in proceedings conducted pursuant to Chapter 9 of Title 34 or in administrative proceedings conducted pursuant to Chapter 13 of Title 50.
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The Sessions Law Firm3155 Roswell Rd., Ste. 220