In civil and criminal litigation, a common justification for a motion to strike or objection is that evidence is irrelevant. Evidence is irrelevant when it does not relate to or affect the matter in controversy. For example, the court in Rashid v. Reed decided that evidence of a person being injured in an automobile accident was irrelevant in proving that the plaintiff was injured in the same accident, as one person’s injuries do not prove another’s.
Whether or not evidence is relevant is governed by rules, such as Rule 401 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which states that evidence is relevant if:
(a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and
(b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action.
Irrelevant material can be struck at the pleading stage, for example by using Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Attorneys can also object to irrelevant evidence at trial. If an attorney believes evidence is irrelevant, they must object to it in a timely manner. Failure to do so could result in the evidence being admitted for consideration by the judge or jury. Further, failure to raise the objection could result in waiving the ability to do so on appeal.
[Last updated in June of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]