Police expert testimony on drug trafficking is not governed by Daubert/Alberico standard

In State v. Rael-Gallegos, the defendant was convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. Defendant contended that the cocaine in her possession was for her personal use, not for distribution. At trial, the State presented the expert testimony of a police officer to show that the quantity of cocaine, and other evidence (e.g. $520 in cash, three cell phones) pointed to an intent to distribute.

The defendant challenged the admission of the police officer’s testimony on appeal, arguing that it failed to satisfy New Mexico’s Daubert/Alberico standard for the admission of scientific evidence, because the officer did not rely on published studies, and that her methodology  was flawed.

In rejecting this argument, Judge Jonathan Sutin explained that the Daubert/Alberico standard did not apply to the police officer’s testimony, which was based on the officer’s experience, not on any application of the scientific method. Rule of Evidence 11-702 allows an expert to be qualified on the basis of experience. Judge Sutin reviewed the officer’s extensive experience (see Paragraphs 21-25), and held that the officer had sufficient experience and knowledge to qualify under Rule 11-702.

The decision makes eminent sense, because not all expertise consists in applying the scientific method to a subject. But if you disagree, please feel free to leave a comment and tell us why!

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