Evidentiary Issues - Documentary/Physical Evidence
When faced with the issue of whether to allow the admission of documentary evidence, the judge must deal with the following issues:
- Whether the evidence has relevance to the case at hand;
- The authenticity and identification of the documents; and
- Who is qualified to testify to those matters.
As noted earlier, the issue of relevancy is one which the judge deals with concerning every type of evidence a party seeks to introduce. Simply put, "authentication" and "identification" of physical evidence refer to a showing by the party attempting to introduce the evidence that the evidence is in fact what the party is purporting it to be. See Rule 11-901(A) (authentication or identification as condition precedent to admissibility).
With respect to documents, unless they fall within the provisions of Rule 11-902 as being self-authenticating, all documentary evidence must be authenticated. Under Rule 11-902, the types of documents which are self-authenticating include:
- public, official documents;
- certified copies of official public records;
- official publications;
- newspapers and periodicals; and
- other types of documents which have certain degrees of trustworthiness, typically based on the form or source of the item.