After multiple days of heated debate on the House floor, Florida legislators voted yesterday 75-42 to pass H.B. 7015, which would shift the state of Florida from the Frye standard, followed since 1923, to the Daubert standard, which considers several “scientific methodology” factors in determining the admissibility of scientific evidence.
The Frye standard, which remains the rule in many states, provides that scientific evidence is admissible if it is "generally accepted" as being reliable within the relevant scientific community. Other states have adopted Daubert, and yet other states have constructed hybrid versions of Frye and Daubert.
A shift to Daubert would likely burden an already overwhelmed state court system. Daubert hearings, which must be held in order to determine the admissibility of the evidence in question, would take additional judicial resources. These Daubert hearings allow judges to exclude scientific evidence if the evidence fails to meet the “relevancy” and “reliability” standard set forth in Daubert. An important point to note is that trial judges have always had the authority to exclude inappropriate testimony, and that authority extends to scientific evidence as well.
As the Florida legislature takes the time to debate this issue, Floridians are probably wondering if there is a compelling reason to shift from Frye to a more stringent standard. Should a jury be restricted in what they are permitted to hear, in terms of scientific evidence? Some may say “yes” and others will likely say “no”.
For now, Floridians must wait to see what the Florida Senate does with an identical bill, S.B. 1412, which advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this week.