The COVID-19 pandemic has increased demand for telepsychiatric services. Forensic psychiatrists can expect to receive more requests for assessments conducted via videoconferencing technology in the years to come. Under current rules of evidence in the United States, the testimony of expert witnesses is introduced as a form of scientific evidence and may be challenged by opposing counsel through Daubert hearings. In a Daubert challenge, courts may evaluate proposed expert testimony through four criteria relating to scientific reliability and validity: whether the testimony is based on methods that emerge from a testable hypothesis, whether the method has been subjected to peer review, the known or potential rate of error associated with the method, and whether the method has achieved general acceptance in the relevant scientific community. To date, courts have not addressed whether testimony based on a telepsychiatric assessment would meet standards of reliability and validity for admission into evidence, as applied in a typical Daubert hearing. This article explores the Daubert standards and other potential objections to telepsychiatry as they may apply to forensic psychiatric examinations conducted via videoconferencing technology. The discussion also provides suggestions to evaluators to increase the likelihood of such testimony surviving a Daubert challenge.
Keywords: expert witness; rules of evidence; telepsychiatry; testimony; videoconferencing.
© 2022 American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.