U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Comment - Evidentiary Use of the Voice Spectrograph in Criminal Proceedings

NCJ Number
Military Law Review Volume: 77 Dated: (Summer 1977) Pages: 167-187
D J Gorecki
Date Published
21 pages
Current case law generally allows the admission of a spectrographic voice identification into evidence during the pretrial stages of criminal proceedings; during the trial itself however, precedents lead to no consistent rule.
Because of the anonymous criminal conduct which is typically attributed to the creator of an unknown voice exemplar, in the voice spectrograph identification process. However, in trials, usage of the process has witnessed three distinct trends. The first, which dates from the 1966 and 1967 decisions in the military case United States v. Wright, concentrates primarily on the witness's qualifications under applicable expert witness rules rather than on the traditional 'general acceptance in the (scientific) field' test first enunciated in Frye v. United States. The Wright test admits the expert's conclusions and permits the fact finder to determine the weight the testimony. A second group of cases considers the voice spectrograph technique in light of the Frye standard which demands that a scientific test gain 'general acceptance in the particular field to which it belongs' before evidence derived from the test is admissable as evidence in a criminal proceeding. An increasing number of State supreme courts and Federal District Courts have held that the ice spectrography technique meets this test, as have two Federal circuit courts of appeals. A third group of cases holds that voice spectrography has not yet met the Frey standards. One case, a decision of the Supreme Court of California, held that the State had not proven that the test had met the Frye standard because the testimony of one witness was not sufficient to establish the scientific validity of the test. Furthermore, that one witness was not properly qualified to give expert testimony concerning scientific merits of the test. Nevertheless, courts are more willing to admit voice spectrograph evidence when it corroborates other circumstantial or direct evidence, than when it forms the sole basis for identifying the alleged perpetrator of the crime. The technique has repeatedly demonstrated great reliability under controlled conditions. Case law is cited throughout the text, and 86 footnotes are provided.


No download available