Can An Experienced Narcotics Officer Testify As An Expert In Identifying a Substance ?
In A.A. v. State, 461 So. 2d 165, 165-66 & n.1 (Fla. 3d DCA 1984), the trial court allowed a police officer to testify as an expert with "specialized knowledge" that, in his opinion, the substance possessed by the defendant was marijuana.
The officer had been with the police department for nine years and had worked four years in a special narcotics unit; he had participated in numerous courses relating to narcotics investigation; he had seen and smelled "tons" of marijuana during his career; and his prior substance identifications had always been corroborated by lab tests. See id. at 166.
The officer formed his opinion regarding the particular substance possessed by the defendant based upon sight, smell, the packaging of the substance, and the fact that the defendant possessed "rolling papers." See id.
On appeal, the Third District approved the admission of the officer's testimony, holding that the trial court did not "abuse its discretion by finding that the officer qualified, through his training and extensive work experience, as an 'expert' in marijuana identification." Id. (citing, among other authorities, section 90.702, Florida Statutes (1983)); cf., e.g., Pama v. State, 552 So. 2d 309, 311 (Fla. 2d DCA 1989) (determining that the State adequately proved substance was marijuana based on experienced law enforcement officer's examination and identification of the substance);
Dean v. State, 406 So. 2d 1162, 1164 (Fla. 2d DCA 1981) (finding that jury could properly find defendant guilty of marijuana possession based on testimony of experienced narcotics officer that he saw occupants of car smoking cigarette in manner commonly used in smoking marijuana, and he smelled strong odor of marijuana emanating from the car immediately thereafter).