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Evidentiary Issues - Documentary/Physical Evidence

Tutorial on the crimes of stalking and harassment for New Mexico judges

When faced with the issue of whether to allow the admission of documentary evidence, the judge must deal with the following issues:

  1. Whether the evidence has relevance to the case at hand;
  2. The authenticity and identification of the documents; and
  3. 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.