In many types of criminal cases, the right expert can be invaluable. Whether it is a forensic accountant in a complex fraud or tax investigation; a medical or billing expert in a healthcare fraud investigation; a forensic psychiatrist for a sex abuse or child pornography case; a computer expert for a computer crimes matter or to download and organize a searchable database for millions of documents in discovery; or a drug or gang expert in a serious drug case, the proper expert retained early in the investigation can assist the client’s criminal defense attorney in their efforts to prevent the charges from being filed, or to assist in developing a defense to aid in plea negotiations or to prevail at trial.
Often the government employs or hires its own experts to analyze a wide variety of data, information or documents. These government “experts” may be recognized in their fields, or they may be opining on evidence in fields in which they are not truly qualified. It is critical in such cases, that the defense attorney have at his disposal the best possible expert in the relevant field of inquiry to conduct their own review and analysis of the evidence and to potentially refute the conclusion of the government expert.
In recent years, there have been notable cases that have demonstrated that government “experts” have either overreached or provided false reports and testimony. For instance, state drug labs around the country have discovered state laboratory technicians that have failed to conduct drug tests on tens of thousands of drug seizures and simply falsified their reports. Other so-called experts have opined on subjects that do not meet generally accepted scientific standards, including hair and fiber analysis, bite marks and lead analysis of bullets. Too often the testimony by these alleged experts have resulted in convictions based on false or unsound results.
Experts can be used to analyze the evidence and discover the weaknesses or fallacies in the government’s theory of the case. The ability to independently review and analyze varied and complex financial transactions, computer code, thousands of emails and attachments, billing records or scientific results can mean the difference between a conviction and acquittal. In addition, most fraud cases and potential sentences are driven by the loss amount. Experts can provide valuable analysis that reduces the loss amount and the potential sentencing ranges.
Aggressive, experienced defense attorneys use experts as early in the process as possible. There are certain procedures that must be followed to protect and preserve the attorney-client and work-product privileges. To do so, the law firm retains the expert to work under the firm’s supervision and direction. While the client is responsible for the fees and expenses, the expert communicates with the law firm rather than with the client so that the expert cannot be cross-examined by the government about any statements or information provided by the client.
Stahl Criminal Defense Lawyers have extensive experience using experts in their representation of individuals charged with federal and state felonies. To contact the firm’s NJ office, call 908.301.9001 and to contact the firm’s NYC office, call 212.755.3300, or email Mr. Stahl at email@example.com.