Federal Rules of Evidence – Rule 1001
(through July 14, 2022)
Generally, “writing,” “recording,” “photograph,” “original,” and “duplicate” mean what common sense would suggest. But with photos on film, the “original” includes the negative or a print from it. And with ESI– electronically stored information– the “original” is any accurate printout.
In this article:
(a) A “writing” consists of letters, words, numbers, or their equivalent set down in any form.
(b) A “recording” consists of letters, words, numbers, or their equivalent recorded in any manner.
(c) A “photograph” means a photographic image or its equivalent stored in any form.
(d) An “original” of a writing or recording means the writing or recording itself or any counterpart intended to have the same effect by the person who executed or issued it. For electronically stored information, “original” means any printout — or other output readable by sight — if it accurately reflects the information. An “original” of a photograph includes the negative or a print from it.
(e) A “duplicate” means a counterpart produced by a mechanical, photographic, chemical, electronic, or other equivalent process or technique that accurately reproduces the original.
Selected Committee Notes
In an earlier day, when discovery and other related procedures were strictly limited, the misleading named “best evidence rule” afforded substantial guarantees against inaccuracies and fraud by its insistence upon production of original documents. The great enlargement of the scope of discovery and related procedures in recent times has measurably reduced the need for the rule. Nevertheless important areas of usefulness persist: discovery of documents outside the jurisdiction may require substantial outlay of time and money; the unanticipated document may not practically be discoverable; criminal cases have built-in limitations on discovery. Cleary and Strong, The Best Evidence Rule: An Evaluation in Context, 51 Iowa L.Rev. 825 (1966).
Paragraph (1). Traditionally the rule requiring the original centered upon accumulations of data and expressions affecting legal relations set forth in words and figures. This meant that the rule was one essentially related to writings. Present day techniques have expanded methods of storing data, yet the essential form which the information ultimately assumes for usable purposes is words and figures. Hence the considerations underlying the rule dictate its expansion to include computers, photographic systems, and other modern developments.
Paragraph (3). In most instances, what is an original will be self-evident and further refinement will be unnecessary. However, in some instances particularized definition is required. A carbon copy of a contract executed in duplicate becomes an original, as does a sales ticket carbon copy given to a customer. While strictly speaking the original of a photograph might be thought to be only the negative, practicality and common usage require that any print from the negative be regarded as an original. Similarly, practicality and usage confer the status of original upon any computer printout. Transport Indemnity Co. v. Seib, 178 Neb. 253, 132 N.W.2d 871 (1965).
Paragraph (4). The definition describes “copies” produced by methods possessing an accuracy which virtually eliminates the possibility of error. Copies thus produced are given the status of originals in large measure by Rule 1003, infra. Copies subsequently produced manually, whether handwritten or typed, are not within the definition. It should be noted that what is an original for some purposes may be a duplicate for others. Thus a bank’s microfilm record of checks cleared is the original as a record. However, a print offered as a copy of a check whose contents are in controversy is a duplicate. This result is substantially consistent with 28 U.S.C. §1732(b). Compare 26 U.S.C. §7513(c), giving full status as originals to photographic reproductions of tax returns and other documents, made by authority of the Secretary of the Treasury, and 44 U.S.C. §399(a), giving original status to photographic copies in the National Archives.
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Key Rules (MBE/MEE)
- FRE 103 – Evidence Rulings
- FRE 104 – Preliminary Questions
- FRE 105 – Limiting How Evidence may be Used
- FRE 106 – Completeness Rule
- FRE 201 – Judicial Notice
- FRE 301 – Presumptions
- FRE 401 – Relevance
- FRE 402 – Irrelevant = Inadmissible
- FRE 403 – Excluding the Prejudicial, Confusing, etc.
- FRE 404 – Character Evidence
- FRE 405 – Proving Character
- FRE 406 – Habit, Routine
- FRE 407 – Subsequent Remedial Measures
- FRE 408 – Compromise Negotiations
- FRE 409 – Offers to Pay Expenses
- FRE 410 – Pleas, Related Statements
- FRE 411 – Liability Insurance
- FRE 412 – Victim’s Sexual Predisposition
- FRE 413, 414, 415 – Other Sex-Related Rules
- FRE 501 – Privilege in General
- FRE 502 – Attorney-Client Privilege, Work-Product Doctrine
- FRE 601 – Witness Competency
- FRE 602 – Personal Knowledge
- FRE 605 – Judge as Witness
- FRE 606 – Juror as Witness
- FRE 607 – Impeachment
- FRE 608 – Honest, Dishonest Character
- FRE 609 – Evidence of Criminal Conviction
- FRE 610 – Religious Beliefs
- FRE 611 – Mode, Order of Evidence
- FRE 612 – Recollection Refreshed
- FRE 613 – Prior Statements
- FRE 614 – Court Witness Examination
- FRE 615 – Excluding Witnesses
- FRE 701 – Non-Expert Opinion
- FRE 702 – Expert Opinion
- FRE 703 – Bases of Expert Opinion
- FRE 704 – Ultimate Issue
- FRE 705 – Disclosing Underlying Data
- FRE 801 – Hearsay Defined
- FRE 802 – Rule Against Hearsay
- FRE 803 – Strong Hearsay Exceptions
- FRE 804 – Weak Hearsay Exceptions
- FRE 805 – Double Hearsay
- FRE 806 – Impeaching Hearsay Declarants
- FRE 807 – Residual Hearsay Exception
- FRE 901 – Authentication, Identification
- FRE 902 – Self-Authenticating Evidence
- FRE 1001 – Original Defined
- FRE 1002 – Original Sometimes Required
- FRE 1003 – When Copies Generally Admissible
- FRE 1004 – Other Times Admissible
- FRE 1005 – Public Record Copies Often Admissible
- FRE 1006 – Summaries
- FRE 1007 – Acknowledged Content
- FRE 1008 – Functions of Court, Jury
- FRE 1101 – Rules’ Applicability