How To Prepare As An Expert Witness

At the heart of every case or hearing is the evidence as presented in the proceeding. An attorney or arbiter will draw upon witness testimony, business records, physical objects and other tangible items that corroborate with his/her interpretation of the case. In forensic cases, if any such item is not accepted into court as evidence, it ceases to exist, at least in the eyes of the judge and jury. Therefore, the easiest way to damage a case is to block the admission of evidence. Preparation for a workplace hearing should include a full review of all data and documentation associated with the sample or samples in question. It is common to submit a copy of the laboratory "litigation package" as evidence in the hearing. While individual laboratories have different formats for these data packages, they generally contain accurate copies of external and internal chain of custody documents, analytical data generated and the final report with any associated correspondence.

Preparatory review for a proceeding should include tracking of the chain of custody to ensure that it is complete, review of all data and any corrective actions taken, if any, and review of the standard operating procedures in effect in at the laboratory when the sample(s) was processed. Depending on the proceeding, the expert witness may be asked to explain the litigation package page by page before it is tendered and/or accepted as evidence.

In addition to the credentials of an expert, the credentials of the laboratory are also important. This includes the current licensure and certifications as well as participation in external proficiency programs. The expert witness should be aware of any state-specific requirements that apply, both in the state where the laboratory is located and in the state where the employer is located. This information may be obtained from the attorney or employer contact, published state statutes or published summaries of state drug testing regulations (4). Because many states adhere to or model programs after the federal workplace drug testing guidelines, familiarity with those documents and applicability is necessary. The most current federal workplace drug testing guidelines can be accessed over the internet (5).

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