Documentary Evidence

Documentary evidence is evidence that is derived on a material source or substance. Documentary or secondary evidence must be authenticated prior to its admission. Documentary evidence is the actual or original writing or non-testimonial evidence sought to be admitted. Secondary evidence is a copy of the original document or non-testimonial evidence. The proponent of the evidence must show that the evidence is what the proponent purports that it is.

Establishing that a Document is Authenticate

The proponent may show that the proposed documentary evidence is authentic by:

Admission from the opposing party.


Expert verification of handwriting or voices.

Showing that the document is an ancient document. This means that the document is more than 20 years old, in a condition to be free from suspicion of wrongdoing, and was found in a place where it was likely that the document would be.

Types of Documentary Evidence

Documentary evidence typically involves a writing or some type of document. This type of evidence is furnished by way of written documents such as letters or other writings, or other non-testimonial evidence.

Advantages of Documentary Evidence

Documentary evidence is a good type of evidence to use, if applicable and available. There are numerous advantages to using documentary evidence including:

Every time the documentary evidence is read or referred to it is one more time that the judge or jury hears and sees the information.

Documentary evidence goes into the jury deliberation room after the conclusion of the trial. The jury will be able to review the evidence repeatedly, unlike hearing a witness’s testimony.

Documentary evidence often tells a story for the judge or jury to refer to after it has been presented.

Hearsay Rule and Documentary Evidence

The hearsay rule often comes into play with respect to the admission of documentary evidence. This is because most documents offered for admission were produced outside of the courtroom and are offered for the truth of the matter asserted in the document. The document will only be admissible if it is able to fit within one of the recognized hearsay exceptions.