What is a Software Expert Witness?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A software expert witness is someone who offers forensic testimony which pertains to software. Such witnesses can be called by the defense or the prosecution in a case to provide information which will help to support the case being presented. By law, witnesses called by one side can be cross examined by the other, and the other side can also call a rival witness to contest points made by the first witness if it feels the need to do so.

A software expert witness may be called for both civil and criminal cases.
A software expert witness may be called for both civil and criminal cases.

Software expert witnesses can come from a variety of backgrounds. They may work in software development, or they may be instructors at colleges and universities who train software developers. Sometimes a witness from a specific company is called because the case concerns that company's software. Like other expert witnesses, software expert witnesses are usually chosen on the basis of their standing in their field and their experience. Someone with years of experience, publications, and software launches is viewed as a better choice of software expert witness than someone relatively new to the field.

The software expert witness can provide expert information based on his or her experience in the industry. He or she can talk about industry norms, specific issues with a particular software program, or actions undertaken by people involved in the case which pertained to software. The software expert may be used to support the prosecution or the defense, and can provide information about how software is used in accident reconstruction, the type of software used in forensic laboratories, and the ways in which software can be manipulated.

The software expert witness may be brought to the stand to demonstrate that wrongdoing on some level occurred, or to show that a job was done properly. For example, if the defense contends that a forensic technician did not use a software program properly, and thereby spoiled evidence being analyzed, the prosecution could bring in a software expert to show that the technician used the software properly and the evidence was not compromised.

Both civil and criminal cases can sometimes have need for a software expert witness. By convention, the witness is compensated for his or her time on the stand, along with travel expenses, in recognition of the fact that the witness is providing professional services to the court. The witness costs are handled by the party which called the witness to the stand, and the opposing counsel may ask the witness how much compensation he or she received.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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