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Uncertified nurse examiner properly qualified as expert

The trial court properly qualified a sexual assault nurse examiner as an expert at appellant’s rape trial even though she had not taken the certifying examination.

Overview

Appellant Wakeman was charged with two counts of rape. The commonwealth called Balciunas, the sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) who examined the victim, to testify about the examination and to provide expert testimony on such examinations.

“Balciunas testified that she had been employed as an emergency room nurse since 2010 and she specialized in trauma emergency service. Balciunas stated that she was certified as a forensic nurse and that she had been a … SANE … since 2014. During voir dire, Balciunas admitted that, although she had completed all of the necessary coursework and training, she had not taken the certification exam to be certified as a SANE.

“When the trial court inquired if she had been acting as a SANE, she stated that she had been performing sexual assault examinations since 2014. She also stated that, in 2013, she had been performing sexual assault examinations under the supervision of her director. After hearing Balciunas’ qualifications, the trial court accepted her as an expert in the area of sexual assault forensic examinations.”

Wakeman appealed his conviction. He argues that the trial court erred by qualifying Balciunas as an expert.

Certification not needed

“The Court of Appeals pointed out that Wakeman conceded that Balciunas possessed more knowledge on the topic of sexual assault forensic examinations than the average person. … The Court of Appeals further noted that Rule 2:702(a) does not require that an expert carry a certification in order to qualify as expert and that the General Assembly has not enacted a statutory bar to uncertified SANEs testifying as experts in the area of sexual assault forensic examinations. …

“Accordingly, the Court of Appeals determined that the trial court did not err in qualifying Balciunas as an expert. …

“The Court agrees with the Court of Appeals’ opinion and affirms. This order shall be published in the Virginia Reports and certified to the Court of Appeals of Virginia and to the Circuit Court of Shenandoah County.”

Wakeman v. Commonwealth, Record No. 181680 (Published Order) March 12, 2020, (COA). John Lloyd Snook III for Appellant, Katherine Quinlan Adelfio for Appellee. VLW 020-6-012, 2 pp.

VLW 020-6-012

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