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It Means What It Needs to Mean: Combating Drug Jargon Testimony
By C. Rauch Wise
Testimony regarding “drug jargon” has been permitted by many courts as either expert testimony under Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence or as lay opinion testimony under Rule 701. Except in a few circumstances, it should not be admitted under either rule. This article will enable defense attorneys to develop effective objections as to why it is not admissible as expert or lay opinion testimony.
“Drug jargon” is the term used by law enforcement officers when they tell a jury the meaning of certain phrases and words in cases alleging drug-dealing. These phrases and words are usually taken from recorded conversations. The prosecution may ask a witness to discuss words such as “key” (meaning a kilogram of cocaine) and phrases such as “Atlanta Hawks tickets” (also meaning kilograms of cocaine). The word “snow” in context can also mean cocaine, just as “weed” in context means marijuana. But even a drug dealer may need a key made, have snow in the yard, and have a problem
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