Frye Test Law & Legal Definition


In the context of criminal law, the Frye test refers to a standard for admitting scientific evidence at trial. It derives from a 1923 case, U.S. v. Frye, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923), in which the defendant offered the results of a lie detector test that he claimed demonstrated that he was telling the truth when he denied killing the victim. The court ruled that the evidence was inadmissible because the scientific principles upon which the procedure was based were not "sufficiently established to have gained general acceptance in the particular field in which it belongs." This became known as the Frye general acceptance test and remained the standard used in both federal courts and state courts around the country for many years. It is also referred to as the Kelly/Frye test due to a California case, People v. Kelly, 549 P.2d 1240 (Cal. 1976), in which the Supreme Court of California laid out what it felt were the main advantages of the Frye standard.