Rules Of Evidence

Rules of Evidence in the United States

Standards that govern the presentation of evidence at a trial. The rules of evidence are designed to facilitate the truth-seeking function of the adversary process. Rules of evidence come largely from decisions of appellate courts, but are also established by statute. The rules generally focus on the admissibility of particular evidence. Trial judges make determinations about admissibility of evidence in individual cases based on the general principles contained in the rules.

See Also

Evidence (Criminal Process) Exclusionary Rule (Criminal Process) Hearsay (Criminal Process).

Analysis and Relevance

The primary objective in setting rules of evidence is that trials produce judgments based on truthful evidence. The basic theme of the rules is the truthfulness or reliability of evidence. Hearsay evidence is not permitted, for example, because it is indirect or second hand. Information represented second hand is generally regarded as unreliable because the source cannot be subjected to tests of truthfulness, principally cross-examination. Evidence must also be directly related to the issue before the court. That a person was expelled from a school for cheating would not be germane to a person’s criminal trial. Some reliable evidence may also be inadmissible if it was obtained illegally. If law enforcement officers improperly elicit an incriminating statement from a person under arrest or improperly seize evidence from someone, it may be inadmissible under the Exclusionary Rule (U.S.). The objective of the Exclusionary Rule (U.S.) is to deter governmental misconduct even at the cost of not allowing reliable evidence to be considered at a trial. Challenge of the admissibility of particular evidence in criminal proceedings comes in the form of a pretrial suppression motion. If a jury hears any evidence it should not, the judge will instruct the jurors to disregard it. If the evidence is too prejudicial, and the instruction to disregard will not sufficiently repair the problem, a mistrial can be declared.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Rules of Evidence from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Rules Of Evidence in State Statute Topics

Introduction to Rules Of Evidence (State statute topic)

The purpose of Rules Of Evidence is to provide a broad appreciation of the Rules Of Evidence legal topic. Select from the list of U.S. legal topics for information (other than Rules Of Evidence).


Further Reading

Rules Of Evidence: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Rules Of Evidence. This part provides references, in relation to Rules Of Evidence, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Rules Of Evidence by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Rules Of Evidence and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Rules Of Evidence or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Rules Of Evidence and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Rules Of Evidence. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Rules Of Evidence should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Rules Of Evidence when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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