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RULE §651.219Code of Professional Responsibility

(a) Code of Professional Responsibility for Forensic Analysts, Forensic Technicians, and Crime Laboratory Management Subject to the Jurisdiction of the Texas Forensic Science Commission. The Code of Professional Responsibility ("Code") for forensic analysts, forensic technicians, and crime laboratory management defines a framework for promoting integrity and respect for the scientific process and encouraging transparency in forensic analysis. Forensic analysts, forensic technicians, and crime laboratory management subject to the Commission's jurisdiction are expected to abide by this Code in all forensic science-related professional activities regardless of the geographic location where the activities are performed. Because certain components of the Code are best suited to individual forensic analysts or technicians while others are best suited to crime laboratory management, the Code is divided into two sections.

(b) Each forensic analyst shall:

  (1) Accurately represent his/her education, training, experience, and areas of expertise.

  (2) Commit to continuous learning in the forensic disciplines and stay abreast of new findings, equipment and techniques to maintain professional competency.

  (3) Promote validation and incorporation of new technologies, guarding against the use of non-valid methods in casework and the misapplication of validated methods.

  (4) Avoid tampering, adulteration, loss, or unnecessary consumption of evidentiary materials.

  (5) Avoid participation in any case where there are personal, financial, employment-related or other conflicts of interest.

  (6) Conduct thorough, fair and unbiased examinations, leading to independent, impartial, and objective opinions and conclusions.

  (7) Make and retain full, contemporaneous, clear and accurate written records of all examinations and tests conducted and conclusions drawn, in sufficient detail to allow meaningful review and assessment by an independent person competent in the field.

  (8) Base conclusions on procedures supported by sufficient data, standards and controls, not on political pressure or other outside influence.

  (9) Not offer opinions or conclusions that are outside one's expertise.

  (10) Prepare reports in clear terms, distinguishing data from interpretations and opinions, and disclosing any relevant limitations to guard against making invalid inferences or misleading the judge or jury.

  (11) Not issue reports or other records, or withhold information from reports for strategic or tactical litigation advantage.

  (12) Present accurate and complete data in reports, oral and written presentations and testimony based on good scientific practices and valid methods.

  (13) Testify in a manner which is clear, straightforward and objective, and avoid phrasing testimony in an ambiguous, biased or misleading manner.

  (14) Retain any record, item or object related to a case, such as work notes, data, and peer or technical review information due to potential evidentiary value and pursuant to the laboratory's retention policy.

  (15) Communicate honestly and fully with all parties (investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and other expert witnesses), unless prohibited by law.

  (16) Document and notify management or quality assurance personnel of adverse events, such as an unintended mistake or a breach of ethical, legal, scientific standards, or questionable conduct.

  (17) Ensure reporting, through proper management channels, to all impacted scientific and legal parties of any adverse event that affects a previously issued report or testimony.

(c) Members of crime laboratory management shall:

  (1) Encourage a quality-focused culture that embraces transparency, accountability and continuing education while resisting individual blame or scapegoating.

  (2) Provide opportunities for forensic analysts to stay abreast of new scientific findings, technology and techniques while guarding against the use of non-valid methods in casework, the misapplication of validated methods or improper testimony regarding a particular analytical method or result.

  (3) Maintain case retention and management policies and systems based on the presumption that there is potential evidentiary value for any information related to a case, including work notes, analytical and validation data, and peer or technical review.

  (4) Provide clear communication and reporting systems through which forensic analysts may report to management non-conformities in the quality system and other adverse events, such as an unintended mistake or a breach of ethical, legal, scientific standards, or questionable conduct.

  (5) Make timely and full disclosure to the Texas Forensic Science Commission of any non-conformance that may rise to the level of professional negligence or professional misconduct.

  (6) Provide copies of all substantive communications with the laboratory's national accrediting body to the Commission.

  (7) For any laboratory that performs forensic analysis on behalf of the State of Texas, develop and follow a written forensic disclosure compliance policy for the purpose of ensuring the laboratory's compliance with article 39.14 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

  (8) Ensure the laboratory's forensic disclosure policy provides clear instructions for identifying and disclosing any exculpatory, impeachment, or mitigating document, item, or information in the possession, custody, or control of the laboratory. The policy should explicitly address how to inform potentially affected recipients of any non-conformances or breaches of law or ethical standards that may adversely affect either a current case or a previously issued report or testimony.

  (9) Inform all forensic analysts working on behalf of the laboratory that they may report allegations of professional negligence or professional misconduct to the Texas Forensic Science Commission without fear of adverse employment consequences.

Source Note: The provisions of this §651.219 adopted to be effective May 16, 2018, 43 TexReg 3106; amended to be effective August 26, 2020, 45 TexReg 5932

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