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In many jurisdictions, witnesses are not permitted to offer opinions about the facts at issue in criminal or civil court cases. Rather, they may testify only about relevant facts within their knowledge. There are some exceptions to this rule. One of these exceptions applies to a qualified technology expert witness. A technology expert is a person who possesses special knowledge about a technology-related field and who draws on this expertise when giving an opinion about a case in court.
Technology expert witnesses may be called to testify in civil or criminal cases as well as in arbitration, mediation, and negotiation proceedings. A technology expert witness can have specialized knowledge about a number of different areas. For example, some experts possess skills relating to computer software or hardware systems while other witnesses have expertise in system implementation, computer forensics, or data recovery.
Usually, a technology expert witness has not actually seen the event that led to the lawsuit. Despite this, the witness may be qualified to provide an opinion about the case based on his or her expertise, skill, knowledge, and education. By and large, the primary purpose of a technology expert witness is to help the fact finder comprehend complex or confusing issues. For example, a computer forensics expert might help a jury understand how date and time stamps, metadata, and system log files show that a defendant illegally hacked into a company’s computer system.
Technology experts can be useful in both civil and criminal cases. For example, in a civil suit, an expert may help demonstrate that a software product is not performing according to its warranty. In a criminal case, an expert may testify that the evidence supports that a defendant accessed illegal materials, such as child pornography, on the Internet.
Typically, an attorney who calls a technology expert witness must establish that the witness possesses the requisite expertise to testify about the topic at hand. This is usually done by asking the witness questions relating to his or her education, working experience, and specialized skills. If an attorney has established proper foundation, a judge may qualify the witness as a technology expert. In some cases, a judge may decide that the witness is only an expert with regard to certain fields. For instance, the judge might deem the witness an Internet expert or a software expert rather than a general computer expert.
In most court proceedings, a technology expert witness is paid to provide services. Fees can include the cost of providing testimony in court as well as court preparation or data analysis expenses. During cross-examination, the opposing attorney is generally permitted to question a technology expert witness about any fees received for these services. These questions are usually designed to discredit the expert’s opinion by showing he or she is biased.