The war on drugs continues to intensify and experience-based expert testimony by law enforcement officers has become an integral part of the prosecution of suspected drug traffickers. Most recently, prosecutors have sought to qualify officers as experts to testify about the religious practices of individuals involved in the illegal drug trade. Are these officers being properly scrutinized under the standards set out in Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), Gen. Elec. Co. v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 141, 143 (1997), Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999)? This Note argues that in many instances they are not. This Note specifically focuses on whether courts in the Tenth Circuit are holding experience-based expert testimony by officers to the rigorous standards that Fed. R. Evid. 702 demands. It examines a recent opinion by the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, United States v. Medina-Copete, 757 F.3d 1092 (10th Cir. 2014), in which an officer was qualified as an expert to testify about the meaning of a prayer to a folk saint known as Santa Muerte. And, it proposes that the Tenth Circuit’s opinion provides a model for properly vetting all forms of experience-based expert testimony.


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