CODE OF ETHICS OFTHE CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF CRIMINALISTSPREAMBLEThis Code is intended as a guide to the ethical conduct of individual workers in the field ofcriminalistics. It is not to be construed that these principles are immutable laws or that they areall-inclusive. Instead, they represent general standards that each worker should strive to meet.It is to be realized that each individual case may vary, just as does the evidence with which thecriminalist is concerned, and no set of guidelines or rules will precisely fit every occasion. Atthe same time, the fundamentals set forth in this Code are to be regarded as indicating, to aconsiderable extent, the conduct requirements expected of members of the profession and ofthis Association. The failure to meet or maintain certain of these standards will justifiably castdoubt upon an individual's fitness for this type of work. Serious or repeated infractions of theseprinciples may be regarded as inconsistent with membership in the Association.Criminalistics is that professional occupation concerned with the scientific analysis andexamination of physical evidence, its interpretation, and its presentation in court. It involvesthe application of principles, techniques, and methods of the physical sciences, and has, as itsprimary objective, a determination of physical facts which may be significant in legal cases.It is the duty of any person practicing the profession of criminalistics to serve the interests ofjustice to the best of his or her ability at all times. In fulfilling this duty, he or she will use all ofthe scientific means at his or her command to ascertain all of the significant physical factsrelative to the matters under investigation. Having made factual determinations, the criminalistmust then interpret and evaluate their findings. In this they will be guided by experience andknowledge which, coupled with a serious consideration of the analytical findings and theapplication of sound judgment, may enable the criminalist to arrive at opinions and conclusionspertaining to the matters under study. These findings of fact, conclusions, and opinions shouldthen be reported, with all the accuracy and skill of which the criminalist is capable, to the endthat all may fully understand and be able to place the findings in their proper relationship to theproblem at issue.In carrying out these functions, the criminalist will be guided by those practices and procedureswhich are generally recognized within the profession to be consistent with a high level ofprofessional ethics. The motives, methods, and actions of the criminalist shall at all times beabove reproach, in good taste, and consistent with proper moral conduct.I. ETHICS RELATING TO SCIENTIFIC METHOD:A. The criminalist has a truly scientific spirit and should be inquiring, progressive, logical, andunbiased.B. The true scientist will make adequate examination of his or her materials, applying thosetests essential to proof. The criminalist will not, merely for the sake of bolstering his or herconclusions, utilize unwarranted and superfluous tests in an attempt to give apparentCode of Ethics of the California Association of Criminalists1 of 6
greater weight to the results.C. The modern scientific mind is an open one, incompatible with secrecy of method. Scientificanalyses will not be conducted by "secret processes", nor will conclusions in case work bebased upon such tests and experiments as will not be revealed to the profession. Thissection is not intended to compel the issuance of a written report fully documenting alltests, experiments, and conclusions in every case.D. A proper scientific method demands reliability of validity in the materials analyzed.Conclusions will not be drawn from materials which themselves appear unrepresentative,atypical, or unreliable.E. A truly scientific method requires that no generally discredited or unreliable procedure beutilized in the analysis.F. The progressive worker will keep abreast of new developments in scientific methods and inall cases view them with an open mind. This is not to say that one need not be critical ofuntried or unproved methods, but will recognize superior methods, if and when, they areintroduced.II. ETHICS RELATING TO OPINIONS AND CONCLUSIONS:A. Valid conclusions call for the application of proven methods. Where it is practical to do so,the competent criminalist will apply such methods throughout. This does not demand theapplication of "standard test procedures." But, where practical, use should be made ofthose methods developed and recognized by this or other professional societies.B. Tests are designed to disclose true facts and all interpretations shall be consistent with thatpurpose and will not be knowingly distorted.C. Where appropriate to the correct interpretation of a test, experimental controls shall bemade for verification.D. Where possible, the conclusions reached as a result of analytical tests are properly verifiedby re-testing or by the application of additional techniques.E. Where test results are inconclusive or indefinite, any conclusions drawn shall be fullyexplained.F. The scientific mind is unbiased and refuses to be swayed by evidence or matters outsidethe specific materials under consideration. It is immune to suggestion, pressures, andcoercions inconsistent with the evidence at hand, being interested only in ascertainingfacts.G. The criminalist will be alert to recognize the significance of a test result as it may relate tothe investigative aspects of a case. In this respect, however, the criminalist’sinterpretations will scrupulously avoid confusing scientific fact with investigative theory.H. Scientific method demands that the individual be aware of one’s own limitations and refuseto extend one’s self beyond them. It is both proper and advisable that the scientific workerCode of Ethics of the California Association of Criminalists2 of 6
should seek knowledge in new fields; he or she will not, however, be hasty to apply suchknowledge before adequate training and experience has been achieved.I. Where test results are capable of being interpreted to the advantage of either side of acase, the criminalist will not choose that interpretation favoring the side by which he or sheis employed merely as a means to justify his or her employment.J. It is both wise and proper that criminalists be aware of the various possible implications oftheir opinions and conclusions and be prepared to weigh them, if called upon to do so. Inany such case, however, they will clearly distinguish between that which may be regardedas scientifically demonstrated fact and that which is speculative.III. ETHICAL ASPECTS OF COURT PRESENTATION:A. The expert witness is one who has substantially greater knowledge of a given subject orscience than has the average person. An expert opinion is properly defined as "the formalopinion of an expert." Ordinary opinion consists of one's thoughts or beliefs on matters,generally unsupported by detailed analysis of the subject under consideration. Expertopinion is also defined as the considered opinion of an expert, or a formal judgment. It is tobe understood that an "expert opinion" is an opinion derived only from a formalconsideration of a subject within the expert's knowledge and experience.B. The ethical expert does not take advantage of the privilege to express opinions by offeringopinions on matters within his or her field of qualification to which he or she has not givenformal consideration.C. Regardless of legal definitions, the criminalist will realize that there are degrees of certaintyrepresented under the single term of "expert opinion." He or she will not take advantage ofthe general privilege to assign greater significance to an interpretation than is justified bythe available data.D. Where circumstances indicate it to be proper, the expert will not hesitate to indicate that,while he or she has an opinion, derived of study, and judgment within their field, the opinionmay lack the certainty of other opinions he or she might offer. By this or other means, theexpert takes care to leave no false impressions in the minds of the jurors or the court.E. In all respects, the criminalist will avoid the use of terms, and opinions which will beassigned greater weight than are due them. Where an opinion requires qualification orexplanation, it is not only proper but incumbent upon the witness to offer such qualification.F. The expert witness should keep in mind that the lay juror is apt to assign greater or lesssignificance to ordinary words of a scientist than to the same words when used by a laywitness. The criminalist, therefore, will avoid such terms as may be misconstrued ormisunderstood.G. It is not the object of the criminalist's appearance in court to present only that evidencewhich supports the view of the side to which he or she is employed. The criminalist has amoral obligation to see to it that the court understands the evidence as it exists and toCode of Ethics of the California Association of Criminalists3 of 6
present it in an impartial manner.H. The criminalist will not by implication, knowingly or intentionally, assist the contestants in acase through such tactics as will implant a false impression in the minds of the jury or thecourt.I. The criminalist, testifying as an expert witness, will make every effort to use understandablelanguage while presenting explanations and demonstrations in order that the jury will obtaina true and valid concept of the testimony. The use of unclear, misleading, circuitous, orambiguous language with a view of confusing an issue in the minds of the court or jury isunethical.J. The criminalist will answer all questions in a clear, straight-forward manner and will refuseto extend his or her responses beyond their field of competence.K. Where the expert must prepare photographs or offer oral "background information" to thejury or court in respect to a specific type of analytic method, this information shall bereliable and valid, typifying the usual or normal basis for the method. The instructionalmaterial shall be of a level that will provide the jury or the court with a proper basis forevaluating the subsequent evidence presentations, and not such as would provide themwith a lower standard than the science demands.L. Any and all photographic displays shall be made according to acceptable practice, andshall not be intentionally altered or distorted with a view to misleading court or jury.M. By way of conveying information to the court, it is appropriate that any of a variety ofdemonstrative materials and methods be utilized by the expert witness. Such methods andmaterials shall not, however, be unduly sensational.IV. ETHICS RELATING TO THE GENERAL PRACTICE OF CRIMINALISTICS:A. Where the criminalist engages in private practice, it is appropriate that he or she set areasonable fee for his or her services.B. No services shall ever be rendered on a contingency fee basis.C. It shall be regarded as ethical for one criminalist to re-examine evidence materialspreviously submitted to, or examined by, another. Where a difference of opinion arises,however, as to the significance of the evidence or to test results, it is in the interest of theprofession that every effort be made by both analysts to resolve their conflict before thecase goes to trial.D. Generally, the principles of “attorney-client privilege” and “work product doctrine” areconsidered to apply to the work of a physical evidence consultant, except in a situationwhere a miscarriage of justice might occur. Justice should be the guiding principle. It isconsidered ethical for the discovery of work performed by a physical evidence consultant tobe limited by legally allowed exceptions. Nothing in this code shall be intended to conflictwith the California Evidence Code, the California Code of Civil Procedure, the FederalRules of Evidence, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and/or the Federal Rules ofCode of Ethics of the California Association of Criminalists4 of 6
Civil Procedure.E. It shall be ethical for one of this profession to serve an attorney in an advisory capacityregarding the interrogation of another expert who may be presenting testimony. Thisservice must be performed in good faith and not maliciously. Its purpose is to preventincompetent testimony, not to thwart justice.V. ETHICAL RESPONSIBILITIES TO THE PROFESSION:In order to advance the profession of criminalistics, to promote the purposes for which theAssociation was formed, and encourage harmonious relationships between all criminalists ofthe State, each criminalist has an obligation to conduct himself or herself according to certainprinciples. These principles are no less matters of ethics than those outlined above. Theydiffer primarily in being for the benefit of the profession rather than specific obligations tosociety. They, therefore, concern relationships between individuals and/or departments,business policies, and similar matters.A. It is in the interest of the profession that information concerning any new discoveries,developments, or techniques applicable to the field of criminalistics be made available tocriminalists generally. A reasonable attempt should be made by any criminalist havingknowledge of such developments to publicize or otherwise inform the profession of them.B. Consistent with this and like objectives, it is expected that the attention of the professionwill be directed toward any tests or methods in use that appear invalid or unreliable so thatthey may be properly investigated.C. In the interest of the profession, the individual criminalist should refrain from seekingindividual publicity or publicity for his or her accomplishments on specific cases. Thepreparation of papers for publication in appropriate media, however, is considered proper.D. The criminalist shall discourage the association of his or her name with developments,publications, or organizations in which he or she has played no significant part, merely as ameans of gaining personal publicity or prestige.E. The CAC has been organized primarily to encourage a free exchange of ideas andinformation between members. It is, therefore, incumbent upon each member to treat withdue respect those statements and offerings made by his or her associates. It is appropriatethat no member shall unnecessarily repeat statements or beliefs of another as expressed atCAC seminars.F. It shall be ethical and proper for one criminalist to bring to the attention of the Association aviolation of any of these ethical principles. Indeed, it shall be mandatory where it appearsthat a serious infraction or repeated violations have been committed and where otherappropriate corrective measures (if pursued) have failed.G. This Code may be used by any criminalist in justification of his or her conduct in a givencase with the understanding that he or she will have the full support of this Association.Code of Ethics of the California Association of Criminalists5 of 6
Adopted May 17, 1957Revised April 11, 1958Revised May 17, 1985 (section V.F)Revised April 24, 2010 (gender balanced document, corrected grammar and typos)Revised September 23, 2015Code of Ethics of the California Association of Criminalists6 of 6
significance to ordinary words of a scientist than to the same words when used by a lay witness. The criminalist, therefore, will avoid such terms as may be misconstrued or misunderstood. G. It is not the object of the criminalist's appearance in court to present only that evidence which supports the view of the side to which he or she is employed.