habit evidence

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Habit evidence, as defined by the Federal Rules of Evidence, is evidence of a repetitive response by a person to particular circumstances, characterized by particularity and frequency. Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, habit evidence is admissible as an exception to the general rule that propensity evidence is not admissible to prove conduct on a particular occasion. Habit evidence can be used to prove how someone would act or react in a particular situation at issue.

Rule 406 of the Federal Rules of Evidence states that evidence of the habit of a person or of the routine practice of an organization is relevant to prove that the conduct of the person or organization on a particular occasion was in conformity with the habit or routine practice. To offer evidence of a habit, a party must demonstrate a regular practice of meeting a particular kind of situation with a specific type of response.

  • The Michigan Court of Appeals in Cook v. Rontal held that evidence of prior acts of a person may be admissible as evidence of habit if it establishes a “set pattern” or something that is done routinely or has been performed on countless occasions.
  • In Reyes v. Missouri P. R. Co., the Court stated that evidence of habit or routine is to be weighed and considered by the trier of fact in the same manner as any other type of direct or circumstantial evidence. Conflicting testimony goes to the weight of the evidence and not to its admissibility.

Habit evidence is considered to be highly probative; therefore, it is often viewed as superior to character evidence because the uniformity of one’s response to habit is far greater than the consistency with which one’s conduct conforms to character or disposition. However, habit evidence is not to be lightly established; and examples of habit evidence are to be carefully scrutinized before admission. 

[Last updated in January of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]