The E-Book/EPub version of Federal Rules of Evidence
*This is a digital copy of this book - not a physical copy.
Updated 2022 Edition
First adopted in 1975, the Federal Rules of Evidence codify the evidence law that applies in United States federal courts. In addition, many states in the United States have either adopted the Federal Rules of Evidence, with or without local variations, or have revised their own evidence rules or codes to at least partially follow the federal rules. In general, the purpose of rules of evidence is to regulate the evidence that the jury may use to reach a verdict.
Historically, the rules of evidence reflected a marked distrust of jurors. The Federal Rules of Evidence strive to eliminate this distrust and encourage admitting evidence in close cases. Even so, some rules perpetuate the historical mistrust of jurors, expressly limiting the kind of evidence they may receive or the purpose for which they may consider it. At the same time, the Rules center on a few basic ideas – relevance, unfair surprise, efficiency, reliability, and overall fairness of the adversary process.
The Rules grant trial judges broad discretion to admit evidence in the face of competing arguments from the parties. This ensures that the jury has a broad spectrum of evidence before it, but not so much evidence that is repetitive, inflammatory, or unnecessarily confusing. The Rules define relevance broadly and relax the common-law prohibitions on witnesses' competence to testify.
Hearsay standards are similarly relaxed, as are the standards for authenticating written documents. At the same time, the judge retains the power to exclude evidence that has too great a danger of unfair prejudice to a party due to its inflammatory, repetitive, or confusing nature or its propensity to waste the court's time.
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