What Are Frye and Daubert Standards?

The Frye and Daubert standards deal with the admissibility of scientific testimony in legal trials and evaluating expert witnesses. The Frye standard went into effect in 1923, says Edward Richards, a professor at the LSU Law Center. The Daubert ruling of 1993 superseded the Frye standard in federal court and some state courts, and is still in effect in those courts today, according to the Legal Information Institute.

In the 1923 Frye ruling, the court wrote that “courts will go a long way in admitting expert testimony deduced from a well-recognized scientific principle or discovery, the thing from which the deduction is made must be sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance.” Edward Richards points out the most noticeable shortcoming of the Frye standard is its principle of general acceptance, because it excludes recent developments that are not yet generally accepted, and it is hard to determine general acceptance in niche specialties where only a few experts exist.

According to the Legal Information Institute, the Daubert standard evaluates scientific methodology with five factors: testing history and potential for testing; peer review and publication; known or expected error rate; operational standards; and acceptance within a relevant scientific community. The Daubert standard improves upon the Frye standard because it reduces general acceptance to acceptance within a relevant community, and the Daubert standard provides for other, specific scientific factors such as error rate.