The Latest State Case Law for Expert Evidence

Last Updated 03/02/2017

Daubert and Frye propose two different standards of admissibility in expert testimony. Frye evaluates the "general acceptance" of the testimony in the field from which it comes, while Daubert tasks judges to evaluate the "methods and priniciples" upon which the expert opinions are founded. Many state courts have expressed that Daubert constitutes a more liberal standard for admissibility than Frye. On the flip side, some courts have found that Daubert in practice actually constitutes a more restrictive test.

The reality is more complicated. Frye looks at whether expert knowledge is "generally accepted." Therefore, expert evidence that is generally accepted but has weak scientific foundation can be admitted. Conversely, Daubert inspects the "methods and principles" underlying expert opinion. As a result, opinions that have strong scientific foundation, but have not been generally accepted, can be admitted. In many cases, the two are consistent. But in some cases (i.e. bitemark evidence), the two can diverge.

In the map above, we summarize expert admissibility law in the 50 states. Many states have adopted Daubert and its progeny (colored red). Still, many have adopted parts of the Daubert trilogy or expressly denied adoption. The map is color-coded to indicate how Frye-like (green) or Daubert-like (red) a state is. North Dakota, North Carolina, and South Carolina are not on the Frye/Daubert continuum - they have their own standards for admissibility.