inadmissible evidence

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In contrast to admissible evidence, inadmissible evidence is evidence that may not be introduced to a factfinder (usually the judge or jury) to prove the party’s claim. Fed. R. Evid. 103(d).

The Federal Rules of Evidence, which apply to all civil and criminal federal court proceedings, govern whether evidence is inadmissible. Fed. R. Evid. 1101(b). If the evidence does not meet standards of relevance, the privilege or public policy exists, the qualification of witnesses or the authentication of evidence is at issue, or the evidence is unlawfully gathered, then it is inadmissible. Fed. R. Evid. 104(a). But these rules--except for those on privilege--do not apply to the trial judge’s determination on a preliminary question of fact governing admissibility.

Relevant evidence is probative and material evidence. It tends to make a fact more or less probable than it would be, or it is a crucial fact in determining the action. Fed. R. Evid. 401. Generally, if the evidence is irrelevant, then is inadmissible. Fed. R. Evid. 402. However, when a court has admitted irrelevant evidence, the court may permit the introduction of additional irrelevant evidence to rebut the previously admitted evidence. Known as a curative admission, it will be admitted when it’s necessary to remove unfair prejudice. A party’s failure to object to the admission of the initial irrelevant evidence is a factor to be considered in determining whether the party was unfairly prejudiced by it. Crawford v. United States, 198 F.2d 976 (D.C. Cir. 1952). Under certain circumstances, relevant evidence will be inadmissible if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusing the issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, wasting time, or needlessly presenting cumulative. Fed. R. Evid. 403.

Due to public policy doctrine, evidence relating to subsequent remedial measures, compromise offers and negotiations, offers to pay medical expenses, plea negotiation, liability insurance, sexual conduct may not be admitted to prove certain claims or liability, even if it’s relevant. Fed. R. Evid. 407, 408, 409, 410(a), 411, 412(a).

Evidence protected by privilege (e.g., spousal privilege, attorney-client privilege, physician-patient privilege, psychotherapist-patient privilege) may not be admitted if the holder of the privilege refuses to disclose information or bar such evidence be used in all stages of a case or proceedings. Fed. R. Evid. 1101(c). The Federal Rules have no specific privilege provisions but instead, defer to common-law privileges. Fed. R. Evid. 501

Character evidence is a witness’s personal knowledge about a person’s behavior or trait of characters—such as the witness’s opinion about the person or information about the person’s reputation, prior acts, and criminal convictions. Fed. R. Evid. 404. Character evidence usually is inadmissible. Here are exceptions. It may be admissible for purposes, such as the impeachment of a witness's credibility or as proof of the person’s motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident. It’s also admissible when the character is at issue or is an element of a claim. Fed. R. Evid. 404.

Hearsay is an out-of-court statement that the declarant made to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Fed. R. Evid. 801(c). Hearsay evidence generally is inadmissible unless it falls within an exception or exclusion set out in the Federal Rules, a federal statute, or a Supreme Court rule. Fed. R. Evid. 802

Authentication of evidence is the evidence sufficient to support a finding of the proponent’s claims. Under the best evidence rule, handwritten copies of an original are inadmissible, unless the original or duplicate is lost, destroyed, or in the possession of an adversary who fails to produce it. Fed. R. Evid. 901(b)

Some evidence has limited admissibility, which may be admissible for one purpose (e.g., impeachment) but not for another (e.g., substantive purposes), or against one party but not against another. If a party makes a timely request in these cases, the court must restrict the evidence to its proper scope and instruct the jury accordingly. Fed. R. Evid. 105

[Last updated in March of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team