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RULES OF EVIDENCE

ARTICLE VI. WITNESSES

Rule 608. A Witness's Character for Truthfulness or Untruthfulness.

 

(a) Reputation or Opinion Evidence. A witness’s credibility may be attacked or supported by testimony about the witness’s reputation for having a character for truthfulness or untruthfulness, or by testimony in the form of an opinion about that character. But evidence of truthful character is admissible only after the witness’s character for truthfulness has been attacked.

(b) Specific Instances of Conduct. Except for a criminal conviction under Rule 609, extrinsic evidence is not admissible to prove specific instances of a witness’s conduct in order to attack or support the witness’s character for truthfulness. But the court may, on cross-examination, allow them to be inquired into if they are probative of the character for truthfulness or untruthfulness of:

(1) the witness; or

(2) another witness whose character the witness being cross-examined has testified about.

By testifying on another matter, a witness does not waive any privilege against self-incrimination for testimony that relates only to the witness’s character for truthfulness.

2016 NHRE Update Committee Note

The 2016 amendment made stylistic and substantive changes to the rule.

In recommending these amendments, the Committee adopts the comments in the Advisory Committee Notes for Federal Rule 608, including 2003, including the following:

The Rule has been amended to clarify that the absolute prohibition on extrinsic evidence applies only when the sole reason for proffering that evidence is to attack or support the witness’ character for truthfulness. . . .  On occasion the Rule's use of the overbroad term “credibility” has been read “to bar extrinsic evidence for bias, competency and contradiction impeachment since they too deal with credibility.”  . . . . The amendment conforms the language of the Rule to its original intent, which was to impose an absolute bar on extrinsic evidence only if the sole purpose for offering the evidence was to prove the witness’ character for veracity.

By limiting the application of the Rule to proof of a witness’ character for truthfulness, the amendment leaves the admissibility of extrinsic evidence offered for other grounds of impeachment (such as contradiction, prior inconsistent statement, bias and mental capacity) to Rules 402 and 403.

 

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