Medical Toxicology Expert Witness Exclusion Affirmed on Appeal

Appellant appealed the opinion of the trail court excluding an expert from opining on the topic of field sobriety testing.  The appeals court affirmed the opinion of the lower court.

Facts: This case (Arthur Lee Dickerson v. DC – District of Columbia Court of Appeals – April 19th, 2018) is an appeal from a trial court opinion partially excluding the appellant’s Medical Toxicology Expert Witness, Richard McGarry.  The appellant was pulled over for driving haphazardly and was arrest for driving under the influence.  The appellant argued that he was taking prescribed medication which caused him to fail the field sobriety test performed by the police.  The appellant hired Mr. McGary to testify in the fields of toxicology, pharmacology, and field sobriety.  The trial court allowed Mr. McGarry to testify in the fields of toxicology and pharmacology, but not field sobriety.  The appellant was subsequently found guilty and was sentenced to 180 days of incarceration.  The appellant appeals the decision to exclude the field sobriety portion of the expert witness testimony.

Discussion:  The trial court ruled that Mr. McGarry did not have any specific training in the interpretation or administration of field sobriety tests and did not possess enough skills, knowledge or experience in the area to assist the trier of fact in this case.  The appellant on appeal argues that had Mr. McGarry’s sobriety field testimony been allowed, he would have been able to refute the expert witness from the other side.

The appeals court, however, opined that the trial court did not err in excluding the field sobriety expert witness testimony of Mr. McGarry.  Even though the trial court recognized that he had some experience of field sobriety testing through some continuing legal education classes that he hosted in the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. McGarry never administered a field sobriety test, was never certified in these type of tests, nor had he ever witnessed a standard law enforcement scenario.

The court also ruled that the appellant was never able to lay a foundation where the trial court could determine whether the alleged subscription medications caused him to fail the sobriety tests.

In addition, the appellant argues that the trial court’s opinion limiting his expert’s testimony regarding the effect of a pinched nerve on performing the sobriety test should be overturned.  The appeals court again agreed with the lower court, stating that Mr. McGarry does not have the skills and education that would have allowed him to diagnose a pinched nerve in the appellant’s back and the effect it would have had on the appellants ability to perform on a sobriety test.

Conclusion:  The opinion of the lower court excluding the field sobriety test expert witness testimony of Richard McGarry is affirmed.