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H.R. 5463 (93rd): Federal Rules of Evidence

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The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress.

1/2/1975--Public Law. (LATEST SUMMARY) Federal Rules of Evidence - Establishes rules of evidence for United States courts. =Article I: General Provisions= - States that the Federal Rules of Evidence shall be construed to secure fairness in the administration, elimination of unjustifiable expense and delay, and promotion of growth and development of the law of evidence to the end that the truth may be ascertained and proceedings justly determined. Provides that error on appeal may not be predicated on a ruling which admits or excludes evidence unless a substantial right of the party is affected and timely objection or offer of proof has been made. States that in jury cases proceedings shall be conducted in such a manner as to prevent inadmissible evidence from being suggested to the jury by any means. Requires that preliminary questions as to admissibility of evidence, qualification of a witness, or the existence of a privilege shall be determined by the judge. =Article II: Judicial Notice= - Stipulates that a court is required to take judicial notice of a fact if requested by a party and supplied with the necessary information, but allows the court to take judicial notice of a fact, whether requested or not. Provides that, in a civil proceeding, the court shall instruct the jury to accept as conclusive any fact judicially noticed. Provides that, in a criminal case, the court shall instruct the jury that it may, but is not required to, accept as conclusive any fact judicially noticed. =Article III: Presumptions In Civil Actions and Proceedings= - Provides that in civil actions and proceedings a presumption imposes on the party against whom it is directed the burden of going forward with the evidence and a presumption is sufficient evidence of the fact presumed, to be considered by the trier of the facts. =Article IV: Relevancy and its Limits= - States that all relevant evidence is admissible, except as otherwise provided by the Constitution of the United States, by Act of Congress, by these rules, or by other rules adopted by the Supreme Court. Directs that evidence which is not relevant is inadmissible. Provides that relevant evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of issues, misleading the jury, or by considerations of undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence. States that character evidence is inadmissible except for evidence pertaining to character of the accused, the victim, or of a witness. Provides that admissible character evidence may be presented by reference to reputation or opinion testimony or specific instances of conduct. Stipulates that evidence of an offer or a plea of guilty or nolo contendere is not admissible in any civil or criminal proceeding against the person who made the offer. =Article V: Privileges= - Provides that the privilege of a witness, person, government, state, or political subdivision thereof shall be governed by the principles of the common law as they may be interpreted by the courts of the United States. =Article VI: Witnesses= - States that every person is competent to be a witness except as otherwise provided. Prohibits the presiding judge or member of the jury from testifying as a witness. Authorizes the impeachment of a witness by any party, including the party calling him, by: (1) opinion and reputation evidence of character, (2) specific instances of conduct, and (3) evidence of criminal convictions with advance written notice to the adverse party in specific cases of convictions more than ten years old, excluding juvenile offenses. Allows the cross-examination of a witness on any relevant matter, including credibility, subject to the discretion of the court. Permits an adverse party to have access to any writing used by a witness to refresh his memory, and to cross-examine the the witness thereon. Provides that extrinsic evidence of a prior inconsistent statement by a witness is not admissible unless the witness is afforded an opportunity to explain or deny the same, and the opposite party is afforded an opportunity to interrogate him thereon. =Article VII: Oninions and Expert Testimony= - Limits opinion or inference testimony by a nonexpert witness to opinions or inferences which are: (1) rationally based on the perception of the witness; and (2) helpful to a clear understanding of his testimony or the determination of a fact in issue. Allows opinion testimony by a qualified expert witness relating to scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge. Permits the court to appoint any expert witness agreed upon by the parties, or to appoint one of its own choosing. =Article VIII: Hearsay= - States that hearsay evidence is inadmissible except as provided by these rules or other rules adopted by the Supreme Court or by Act of Congress. Specifies matters not excluded by the hearsay rule, even though the declarant is available as a witness, including the following: (1) present sense impressions, (2) excited utterances, (3) then existing mental, emotional, or physical conditions, (4) statements for purposes of medical diagnosis or treatment, (5) recorded recollections, and (6) records of regularly conducted activity. Sets forth the following exceptions to the hearsay rule if the declarant is unavailable as a witness: (1) former testimony, (2) statements of recent perception, (3) statements under belief of impending death, (4) statements against interest and (5) statements of personal or family history. Provides that hearsay included within hearsay is not excluded under the hearsay rule if each part of the combined statements conforms with an exception to the hearsay rule provided in these rules. =Article IX: Authentication and Identification= - States that the requirement of authentication or identification as a condition precedent to admissibility is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims. Sets forth various illustrations of authentication, including nonexpert opinion on handwriting and testimony of a witness with knowledge that a matter is what it is claimed to be. Provides that extrinsic evidence of authenticity as a condition precedent to admissibility is not required with respect to: (1) domestic public documents under seal, (2) domestic public documents not under seal if an authorized official certifies under seal that the signer has the official capacity to sign and the signature is genuine, (3) foreign public documents, (4) certified copies of public records, (5) official publications, (6) newspapers and periodicals, (7) trade inscriptions, (8) acknowledged documents, and (9) commercial paper. =Article X: Contents of Writings, Recordings, and Photographs= - States that to prove the content of a writing, recording, or photograph, production of the original is required except as provided in these rules or by Act of Congress. Permits the admission of evidence other than the original to prove the contents of a writing, recording, or photograph if the original has been lost or destroyed (other than in bad faith), is unobtainable, is in the possession of an opponent, or relates to collateral matters. States that the contents of an official record may be proved by certified copy. Allows the contents of voluminous writings, recordings, or photographs to be presented in the form of a chart, summary, or calculation for the sake of convenience. =Article XI: Miscellaneous Rules= - Sets forth provisions governing applicability of the Federal Rules of Evidence.