Expert Article Library

Police Officer Allowed To Give Expert Testimony

Case Name: United States v. Johnson (Click here for the full text of the case)

Court: United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit; on appeal from District Court for the Southern District of Ohio at Cincinnati

Date: May 25, 2007

Expert: Police Officer Expert. Officer Richard Dews

Issues: Did the district court err in treating Officer Dew’s testimony as expert testimony.

Summary of case: Johnson, the defendant, appealed his criminal conviction for possession of ammunition and distribution of cocaine. Amongst other things, Johnson argued that the district court erred in admitting the testimony of Officer Dews. The Court of Appeals held that there was no error in the district court’s admission of Dews’ testimony.

Role of the expert: Officer Dews testified at trial that he observed the defendant engaging in conduct that amounted to drug trafficking and that the defendant’s behavior suggested that he was “in charge” of the operation.

Challenges to the Expert's testimony: The defendant argued that the district court committed plain error in treating Officer Dews as an expert. The Court of Appeals held that Dews’ testimony met the requirements of Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and stated that courts are permitted to allow police officers to give expert testimony regarding drug trafficking provided that the testimony is relevant and reliable. The Court noted that Officer Dews had been involved in narcotics investigations for most of his 14-year career and was entitled to interpret “street conduct” for the fact-finders.

Summary prepared by R. Zapparoni