The Frye Standard
Scientific Evidence and the Principle of General Acceptance
In 1923, in Frye v. United States1, the District of Columbia Court rejected the scientific validity of the lie detector (polygraph) because the technology did not have significant general acceptance at that time. The court gave a guideline for determining the admissibility of scientific examinations:
Just when a scientific principle or discovery crosses the line between the experimental and demonstrable stages is difficult to define. Somewhere in this twilight zone the evidential force of the principle must be recognized, and while the courts will go a long way in admitting experimental testimony deduced from a well-recognized scientific principle or discovery, the thing from which the deduction is made must be sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs.
Essentially, to apply the “Frye Standard” a court had to decide if the procedure, technique or principles in question were generally accepted by a meaningful proportion of the relevant scientific community. This standard prevailed in the federal courts and some states for many years.