Relevant means, with regards to evidence, having some value or tendency to prove a matter of fact significant to the case. Federal Rule of Evidence 401 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.” Generally, relevant evidence is admissible, and a common objection to the admission of evidence is that it is irrelevant. An example of relevant evidence in a murder trial could be the DNA evidence that defendant possessed the murder weapon and testimony from a witness who saw him at the scene around the time of the murder.
The Committee Notes on Rule 401 clarify that “[r]elevancy is not an inherent characteristic of any item of evidence but exists only as a relation between an item of evidence and a matter properly provable in a case.” That is, it is only an item’s relationship to what a party seeks to prove in trial that makes it relevant.
[Last updated in November of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]