Federal Rules Of Evidence

In both civil and criminal cases prosecuted on the federal level, the Federal Rules of Evidence will apply. In this definition, we’ll define the term “Federal Rules of Evidence” and give an overview of them.

Key Takeaways

  • Established in 1975, the Federal Rules of Evidence are a set of rules about the admission and exclusion of evidence
  • The Federal Rules of Evidence apply to both civil and criminal trials
  • The Federal Rules of Evidence are uniformly used across all federal courts 
  • Many state courts base their rules of evidence on the Federal Rules of Evidence
  • The Federal Rules of Evidence have eleven sections: general provisions, judicial notice, presumptions in civil actions and proceedings, relevancy and its limits, privileges, witnesses, opinions and expert testimony, hearsay, authentication and identification, contents of writings, recordings, and photographs, and miscellaneous rules

What Are the Federal Rules Of Evidence?

The Federal Rules of Evidence were established in 1975 by President Gerald Ford. They are intended to create a uniform system across all federal courts regarding the admission and exclusion of evidence in civil and criminal trials. Prior to the law that established the Federal Rules of Evidence, not all federal courts used the same rules or applied them evenly. 

The Federal Rules of Evidence only apply in federal court, but many state courts base their own rules of evidence on the federal system. 

Overview of the Federal Rules of Evidence

There are eleven sections of the Federal Rules of Evidence. These include:

  • General Provisions - Includes information about how to object to admissibility or exclusion of evidence and guidance on preliminary questions and courtroom procedures
  • Judicial Notice - These are types of documents or writings, such as the weather on any given day, that the court can accept into evidence without the need to lay a foundation or authenticate
  • Presumptions in Civil Actions and Proceedings - Applying to civil cases, presumptions are used to determine which party in a court case must prove a particular fact
  • Relevancy and Its Limits - Establishes that evidence is considered relevant if it has a tendency to determine the validity of an important fact in the case
  • Privileges - Established that privileged information isn't required to be disclosed unless the privilege is waived. Types of privilege include attorney/client, husband/wife, and psychotherapist/patient.
  • Witnesses - Includes requirements regarding who's a proper witness and what they may testify about
  • Opinions and Expert Testimony - Establishes that generally, witnesses cannot testify to opinions unless they qualify as an expert witness
  • Hearsay - Establishes that hearsay, or gossip being offered as proof that something is true, is not admissible evidence
  • Authentication and Identification - Establishes that any item entered into evidence will require a witness or an expert to identify and vouch for its authenticity in court
  • Contents of Writings, Recordings, and Photographs - Establishes that documentary evidence such as writings, recordings, and photographs must be original unless the rules provide for the use of a copy.
  • Miscellaneous Rules - Provides a federal judge discretion in admitting or excluding evidence independently from the Federal Rules of Evidence if the judge deems it necessary

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