Federal Rules of Evidence – Rule 1101
(through July 14, 2022)
Except for privilege rules, the Federal Rules of Evidence don’t apply in preliminary, grand-jury, extradition, warrant, sentencing, probation, and bail contexts. They also don’t apply in contempt proceedings when the court can act summarily, like when the court witnesses contempt first-hand.
(a) To Courts and Judges. These rules apply to proceedings before: United States district courts; United States bankruptcy and magistrate judges; United States courts of appeals; the United States Court of Federal Claims; and the district courts of Guam, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands.
(b) To Cases and Proceedings. These rules apply in: civil cases and proceedings, including bankruptcy, admiralty, and maritime cases; criminal cases and proceedings; and contempt proceedings, except those in which the court may act summarily.
(c) Rules on Privilege. The rules on privilege apply to all stages of a case or proceeding.
(d) Exceptions. These rules — except for those on privilege — do not apply to the following: (1) the court’s determination, under Rule 104(a), on a preliminary question of fact governing admissibility; (2) grand-jury proceedings; and (3) miscellaneous proceedings such as: extradition or rendition; issuing an arrest warrant, criminal summons, or search warrant; a preliminary examination in a criminal case; sentencing; granting or revoking probation or supervised release; and considering whether to release on bail or otherwise.
(e) Other Statutes and Rules. A federal statute or a rule prescribed by the Supreme Court may provide for admitting or excluding evidence independently from these rules.
Selected Committee Notes
Subdivision (a). The various enabling acts contain differences in phraseology in their descriptions of the courts over which the Supreme Court’s power to make rules of practice and procedure extends. The act concerning civil actions, as amended in 1966, refers to “the district courts * * * of the United States in civil actions, including admiralty and maritime cases. * * *” 28 U.S.C. §2072, Pub. L. 89–773, §1, 80 Stat. 1323. The bankruptcy authorization is for rules of practice and procedure “under the Bankruptcy Act.” 28 U.S.C. §2075, Pub. L. 88–623, §1, 78 Stat. 1001. The Bankruptcy Act in turn creates bankruptcy courts of “the United States district courts and the district courts of the Territories and possessions to which this title is or may hereafter be applicable.” 11 U.S.C. §§1(10), 11(a). The provision as to criminal rules up to and including verdicts applies to “criminal cases and proceedings to punish for criminal contempt of court in the United States district courts, in the district courts for the districts of the Canal Zone and Virgin Islands, in the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico, and in proceedings before United States magistrates.” 18 U.S.C. §3771.
These various provisions do not in terms describe the same courts. In congressional usage the phrase “district courts of the United States,” without further qualification, traditionally has included the district courts established by Congress in the states under Article III of the Constitution, which are “constitutional” courts, and has not included the territorial courts created under Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2, which are “legislative” courts. Hornbuckle v. Toombs, 85 U.S. 648, 21 L.Ed. 966 (1873). However, any doubt as to the inclusion of the District Court for the District of Columbia in the phrase is laid at rest by the provisions of the Judicial Code constituting the judicial districts, 28 U.S.C. §81 et seq. creating district courts therein, Id. §132, and specifically providing that the term “district court of the United States” means the courts so constituted. Id. §451. The District of Columbia is included. Id. §88. Moreover, when these provisions were enacted, reference to the District of Columbia was deleted from the original civil rules enabling act. 28 U.S.C. §2072. Likewise Puerto Rico is made a district, with a district court, and included in the term. Id. §119. The question is simply one of the extent of the authority conferred by Congress. With respect to civil rules it seems clearly to include the district courts in the states, the District Court for the District of Columbia, and the District Court for the District of Puerto Rico.
The bankruptcy coverage is broader. The bankruptcy courts include “the United States district courts,” which includes those enumerated above. Bankruptcy courts also include “the district courts of the Territories and possessions to which this title is or may hereafter be applicable.” 11 U.S.C. §§1(10), 11(a). These courts include the district courts of Guam and the Virgin Islands. 48 U.S.C. §§1424(b), 1615. Professor Moore points out that whether the District Court for the District of the Canal Zone is a court of bankruptcy “is not free from doubt in view of the fact that no other statute expressly or inferentially provides for the applicability of the Bankruptcy Act in the Zone.” He further observes that while there seems to be little doubt that the Zone is a territory or possession within the meaning of the Bankruptcy Act, 11 U.S.C. §1 (10), it must be noted that the appendix to the Canal Zone Code of 1934 did not list the Act among the laws of the United States applicable to the Zone. 1 Moore’s Collier on Bankruptcy 1.10, pp. 67, 72, n. 25 (14th ed. 1967). The Code of 1962 confers on the district court jurisdiction of:
“(4) actions and proceedings involving laws of the United States applicable to the Canal Zone; and
“(5) other matters and proceedings wherein jurisdiction is conferred by this Code or any other law.” Canal Zone Code, 1962, Title 3, §141.
Admiralty jurisdiction is expressly conferred. Id. §142. General powers are conferred on the district court, “if the course of proceeding is not specifically prescribed by this Code, by the statute, or by applicable rule of the Supreme Court of the United States * * *” Id. §279. Neither these provisions nor §1(10) of the Bankruptcy Act (“district courts of the Territories and possessions to which this title is or may hereafter be applicable”) furnishes a satisfactory answer as to the status of the District Court for the District of the Canal Zone as a court of bankruptcy. However, the fact is that this court exercises no bankruptcy jurisdiction in practice.
The criminal rules enabling act specifies United States district courts, district courts for the districts of the Canal Zone and the Virgin Islands, the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and proceedings before United States commissioners. Aside from the addition of commissioners, now magistrates, this scheme differs from the bankruptcy pattern in that it makes no mention of the District Court of Guam but by specific mention removes the Canal Zone from the doubtful list.
The further difference in including the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico seems not to be significant for present purposes, since the Supreme Court of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is an appellate court. The Rules of Criminal Procedure have not been made applicable to it, as being unneeded and inappropriate, Rule 54(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and the same approach is indicated with respect to rules of evidence.
If one were to stop at this point and frame a rule governing the applicability of the proposed rules of evidence in terms of the authority conferred by the three enabling acts, an irregular pattern would emerge as follows:
Civil actions, including admiralty and maritime cases—district courts in the states, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
Bankruptcy— same as civil actions, plus Guam and Virgin Islands.
Criminal cases— same as civil actions, plus Canal Zone and Virgin Islands (but not Guam).
This irregular pattern need not, however, be accepted. Originally the Advisory Committee on the Rules of Civil Procedure took the position that, although the phrase “district courts of the United States” did not include territorial courts, provisions in the organic laws of Puerto Rico and Hawaii would make the rules applicable to the district courts thereof, though this would not be so as to Alaska, the Virgin Islands, or the Canal Zone, whose organic acts contained no corresponding provisions. At the suggestion of the Court, however, the Advisory Committee struck from its notes a statement to the above effect. 2 Moore’s Federal Practice 1.07 (2nd ed. 1967); 1 Barron and Holtzoff, Federal Practice and Procedure §121 (Wright ed. 1960). Congress thereafter by various enactments provided that the rules and future amendments thereto should apply to the district courts of Hawaii, 53 Stat. 841 (1939), Puerto Rico, 54 Stat. 22 (1940), Alaska, 63 Stat. 445 (1949), Guam, 64 Stat. 384–390 (1950), and the Virgin Islands, 68 Stat. 497, 507 (1954). The original enabling act for rules of criminal procedure specifically mentioned the district courts of the Canal Zone and the Virgin Islands. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico was blanketed in by creating its court a “district court of the United States” as previously described. Although Guam is not mentioned in either the enabling act or in the expanded definition of “district court of the United States,” the Supreme Court in 1956 amended Rule 54(a) to state that the Rules of Criminal Procedure are applicable in Guam. The Court took this step following the enactment of legislation by Congress in 1950 that rules theretofore or thereafter promulgated by the Court in civil cases, admiralty, criminal cases and bankruptcy should apply to the District Court of Guam, 48 U.S.C. §1424(b), and two Ninth Circuit decisions upholding the applicability of the Rules of Criminal Procedure to Guam. Pugh v. United States, 212 F.2d 761 (9th Cir. 1954); Hatchett v. Guam, 212 F.2d 767 (9th Cir. 1954); Orfield, The Scope of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, 38 U. of Det.L.J. 173, 187 (1960).
From this history, the reasonable conclusion is that Congressional enactment of a provision that rules and future amendments shall apply in the courts of a territory or possession is the equivalent of mention in an enabling act and that a rule on scope and applicability may properly be drafted accordingly. Therefore the pattern set by Rule 54 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure is here followed.
The substitution of magistrates in lieu of commissioners is made in pursuance of the Federal Magistrates Act, P.L. 90–578, approved October 17, 1968, 82 Stat. 1107.
Subdivision (b) is a combination of the language of the enabling acts, supra, with respect to the kinds of proceedings in which the making of rules is authorized. It is subject to the qualifications expressed in the subdivisions which follow.
Subdivision (c), singling out the rules of privilege for special treatment, is made necessary by the limited applicability of the remaining rules.
Subdivision (d). The rule is not intended as an expression as to when due process or other constitutional provisions may require an evidentiary hearing. Paragraph (1) restates, for convenience, the provisions of the second sentence of Rule 104(a), supra. See Advisory Committee’s Note to that rule.
(2) While some states have statutory requirements that indictments be based on “legal evidence,” and there is some case law to the effect that the rules of evidence apply to grand jury proceedings, 1 Wigmore §4(5), the Supreme Court has not accepted this view. In Costello v. United States, 350 U.S. 359, 76 S.Ct. 406, 100 L.Ed. 397 (1965), the Court refused to allow an indictment to be attacked, for either constitutional or policy reasons, on the ground that only hearsay evidence was presented.
“It would run counter to the whole history of the grand jury institution, in which laymen conduct their inquiries unfettered by technical rules. Neither justice nor the concept of a fair trial requires such a change.” Id. at 364. The rule as drafted does not deal with the evidence required to support an indictment.
(3) The rule exempts preliminary examinations in criminal cases. Authority as to the applicability of the rules of evidence to preliminary examinations has been meagre and conflicting. Goldstein, The State and the Accused: Balance of Advantage in Criminal Procedure, 69 Yale L.J. 1149, 1168, n. 53 (1960); Comment, Preliminary Hearings on Indictable Offenses in Philadelphia, 106 U. of Pa.L.Rev. 589, 592–593 (1958). Hearsay testimony is, however, customarily received in such examinations. Thus in a Dyer Act case, for example, an affidavit may properly be used in a preliminary examination to prove ownership of the stolen vehicle, thus saving the victim of the crime the hardship of having to travel twice to a distant district for the sole purpose of testifying as to ownership. It is believed that the extent of the applicability of the Rules of Evidence to preliminary examinations should be appropriately dealt with by the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure which regulate those proceedings.
Extradition and rendition proceedings are governed in detail by statute. 18 U.S.C. §§3181–3195. They are essentially administrative in character. Traditionally the rules of evidence have not applied. 1 Wigmore §4(6). Extradition proceedings are accepted from the operation of the Rules of Criminal Procedure. Rule 54(b)(5) of Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
The rules of evidence have not been regarded as applicable to sentencing or probation proceedings, where great reliance is placed upon the presentence investigation and report. Rule 32(c) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure requires a presentence investigation and report in every case unless the court otherwise directs. In Williams v. New York, 337 U.S. 241, 69 S.Ct. 1079, 93 L.Ed. 1337 (1949), in which the judge overruled a jury recommendation of life imprisonment and imposed a death sentence, the Court said that due process does not require confrontation or cross-examination in sentencing or passing on probation, and that the judge has broad discretion as to the sources and types of information relied upon. Compare the recommendation that the substance of all derogatory information be disclosed to the defendant, in A.B.A. Project on Minimum Standards for Criminal Justice, Sentencing Alternatives and Procedures §4.4, Tentative Draft (1967, Sobeloff, Chm.). Williams was adhered to in Specht v. Patterson, 386 U.S. 605, 87 S.Ct. 1209, 18 L.Ed.2d 326 (1967), but not extended to a proceeding under the Colorado Sex Offenders Act, which was said to be a new charge leading in effect to punishment, more like the recidivist statutes where opportunity must be given to be heard on the habitual criminal issue.
Warrants for arrest, criminal summonses, and search warrants are issued upon complaint or affidavit showing probable cause. Rules 4(a) and 41(c) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The nature of the proceedings makes application of the formal rules of evidence inappropriate and impracticable.
Criminal contempts are punishable summarily if the judge certifies that he saw or heard the contempt and that it was committed in the presence of the court. Rule 42(a) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. The circumstances which preclude application of the rules of evidence in this situation are not present, however, in other cases of criminal contempt.
Proceedings with respect to release on bail or otherwise do not call for application of the rules of evidence. The governing statute specifically provides:
“Information stated in, or offered in connection with, any order entered pursuant to this section need not conform to the rules pertaining to the admissibility of evidence in a court of law.” 18 U.S.C.A. §3146(f). This provision is consistent with the type of inquiry contemplated in A.B.A. Project on Minimum Standards for Criminal Justice, Standards Relating to Pretrial Release, §4.5(b), (c), p. 16 (1968). The references to the weight of the evidence against the accused, in Rule 46(a)(1), (c) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and in 18 U.S.C.A. §3146(b), as a factor to be considered, clearly do not have in view evidence introduced at a hearing.
The rule does not exempt habeas corpus proceedings. The Supreme Court held in Walker v. Johnston, 312 U.S. 275, 61 S.Ct. 574, 85 L.Ed. 830 (1941), that the practice of disposing of matters of fact on affidavit, which prevailed in some circuits, did not “satisfy the command of the statute that the judge shall proceed ‘to determine the facts of the case, by hearing the testimony and arguments.’ ” This view accords with the emphasis in Townsend v. Sain, 372 U.S. 293, 83 S.Ct. 745, 9 L.Ed.2d 770 (1963), upon trial-type proceedings, Id. 311, 83 S.Ct. 745, with demeanor evidence as a significant factor, Id. 322, 83 S.Ct. 745, in applications by state prisoners aggrieved by unconstitutional detentions. Hence subdivision (e) applies the rules to habeas corpus proceedings to the extent not inconsistent with the statute.
Subdivision (e). In a substantial number of special proceedings, ad hoc evaluation has resulted in the promulgation of particularized evidentiary provisions, by Act of Congress or by rule adopted by the Supreme Court. Well adapted to the particular proceedings, though not apt candidates for inclusion in a set of general rules, they are left undisturbed. Otherwise, however, the rules of evidence are applicable to the proceedings enumerated in the subdivision.