The admissibility of behavioral science evidence in the courtroom: The translation of legal to scientific concepts and back

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Starting with the Daubert case, courtroom rules and guides regulating the admissibility of scientific evidence have undergone major revisions over the past 10 to 15 years. We review these changes and current legal rules and guides, in particular their impact on the admission of behavioral sciences evidence and testimony. We examine commonly intended meanings, conceptualizations, and language use relating to science and the admission of evidence within the legal system and their relation to more familiar terms and concepts within the behavioral sciences, identifying points of continuity and discontinuity. We then review illustrative legal cases involving challenges to the admission of psychological and psychiatric evidence and their implications for mental health professionals. Finally, we offer a framework for conceptualizing and prioritizing key legal criteria for determining admissibility and appraising standing on these factors within the mental health field. Increased mutual understanding between psychology and law should further enhance productive interfaces between the disciplines and add to the many instances in which the proper use of science in the courtroom has facilitated fair resolution of legal conflicts. Copyright © 2010 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.

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Annual Review of Clinical Psychology