Forensic toxicologists identify, quantify, and analyse drugs, endogenous compounds and poisonous substances in samples. This can include body fluids, plant materials and drugs. Forensic toxicologists are highly trained in assessing the relationships between the identified substances and the clinical response this causes in the human body. In order to do this, forensic toxicologists must take into account substance-related factors such as the exposure levels, metabolism of specific chemicals, and drug interactions, as well as individual specific factors such as age-related effects, tolerance, and post-mortem redistribution. Forensic toxicologists sometimes become involved in concluding a probable cause of death in post-mortem cases.
An important part of the job of a forensic toxicologist is working with the legal system to provide information on the analysed samples. This is often in criminal cases but can also be in civil legal cases, for example in suspected work-related lead poisoning.
The field of forensic toxicology involves three main sub-disciplines: post-mortem forensic toxicology, human performance toxicology, and forensic drug testing.
Why might you need to instruct a forensic toxicology expert witness?
Courts will often call a forensic toxicologist as an expert witness to explain the analytical results that form part of the evidence in a case. This may include giving an expert opinion as to whether a certain concentration of a chemical could account for the relevant clinical effects. For example, whether a specified amount of a prescribed medication could have been toxic to an individual under certain circumstances, or whether the concentration of alcohol in a defendant’s blood sample immediately following an offence is likely to have fundamentally altered their behaviour. Forensic toxicology experts are often instructed in cases of unexplained deaths and suspected accidental or intentional overdose. This typically involves analysing samples of blood, hair and other tissue for substances such as alcohol, prescribed drugs, illegal drugs and poisons. Some forensic toxicology experts may be particularly expert in post-mortem analysis. This may involve analysis of decomposition fluids which can provide an insight into substances ingested by the individual in the days and weeks prior to death.
Increasingly, forensic toxicologists are asked to give expert evidence in cases of drug facilitated rape, to ascertain whether a drink may have been ‘spiked’, and whether any drugs or alcohol present may have affected an individuals’ ability to give consent. Cases of driving-related offences may also require the expertise of the forensic toxicologist, to ascertain the most likely impact of a concentration of a drug or alcohol on a specific individual.
Other incidences where an expert in forensic toxicology may be instructed include:
- Post-mortem analysis
- Effects of drugs on an individuals’ behaviour at the time of an offence or in relation to fitness for interview
- Effects of medications on alcohol metabolism
- Explanation and interpretation of blood results in relation to drug driving
Why use Expert Court Reports?
A good forensic toxicology expert witness should come with years of clinical experience as well as specific competencies to act as an expert witness. Look for someone who has established expert witness experience. Our forensic toxicology expert, Dr Breidi, has many years of clinical practice and established experience of acting as an expert witness.
How quickly can you provide a report?
At Expert Court Reports Ltd, we understand the pressures of the legal profession. We recognise that litigation is subject to defined timescales and for this reason, we will be as flexible and accommodating as we are able to be. However, we pride ourselves on not promising work that cannot be reliably delivered within a given timescale. The quality of the evidence which is provided by our experts is subject to review and scrutiny. All expert reports are subject to a detailed and robust proofreading process to ensure that our expert evidence is accurate and expertly formatted.