Rule 1003 – Admissibility of Duplicates

A duplicate is admissible to the same extent as the original unless a genuine question is raised about the original’s authenticity or the circumstances make it unfair to admit the duplicate.

Summary and Explanation

Federal Rule of Evidence 1003 deals with the admissibility of duplicates in legal proceedings. Here’s a summary and explanation:

Content of the Rule: Rule 1003 states that a duplicate is admissible to the same extent as the original unless a genuine question is raised about the original’s authenticity or the circumstances make it unfair to admit the duplicate in place of the original.

Definition of Duplicate: Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, a “duplicate” is defined as a counterpart produced by means equivalent to the original. This includes photocopies, carbon copies, and electronically generated copies, among others.

Purpose and Application:

  • The rule acknowledges that modern technology allows for the creation of duplicates that are nearly identical to originals, reducing the risk of inaccuracies or alterations.
  • It is designed to facilitate the admission of evidence by recognizing that duplicates often serve as reliable and accurate representations of the original.

Exceptions to the Rule:

  • Authenticity Concerns: If there’s a question about whether the original has been altered or is not what it purports to be, then the duplicate may not be admissible.
  • Unfair Circumstances: In cases where using a duplicate in place of the original would be unfair (e.g., if details in the original could be significant but are not visible in the duplicate), the duplicate may not be admissible.

In essence, Rule 1003 allows duplicates to be used in place of originals in many legal situations. This approach reflects the practical realities of document usage and storage in the modern world, where duplicates are often indistinguishable from originals and can be more accessible. However, the rule also provides safeguards to ensure the integrity of evidence in cases where the authenticity of the original is in question or where the use of a duplicate might lead to unfairness in the proceedings.


(Pub. L. 93–595, §1, Jan. 2, 1975, 88 Stat. 1946; Apr. 26, 2011, eff. Dec. 1, 2011.)

Notes of Advisory Committee on Proposed Rules

When the only concern is with getting the words or other contents before the court with accuracy and precision, then a counterpart serves equally as well as the original, if the counterpart is the product of a method which insures accuracy and genuineness. By definition in Rule 1001(4), supra, a “duplicate” possesses this character.

Therefore, if no genuine issue exists as to authenticity and no other reason exists for requiring the original, a duplicate is admissible under the rule. This position finds support in the decisions, Myrick v. United States, 332 F.2d 279 (5th Cir. 1964), no error in admitting photostatic copies of checks instead of original microfilm in absence of suggestion to trial judge that photostats were incorrect; Johns v. United States, 323 F.2d 421 (5th Cir. 1963), not error to admit concededly accurate tape recording made from original wire recording; Sauget v. Johnston, 315 F.2d 816 (9th Cir. 1963), not error to admit copy of agreement when opponent had original and did not on appeal claim any discrepancy. Other reasons for requiring the original may be present when only a part of the original is reproduced and the remainder is needed for cross-examination or may disclose matters qualifying the part offered or otherwise useful to the opposing party. United States v. Alexander, 326 F.2d 736 (4th Cir. 1964). And see Toho Bussan Kaisha, Ltd. v. American President Lines, Ltd., 265 F.2d 418, 76 A.L.R.2d 1344 (2d Cir. 1959).

Notes of Committee on the Judiciary, House Report No. 93–650

The Committee approved this Rule in the form submitted by the Court, with the expectation that the courts would be liberal in deciding that a “genuine question is raised as to the authenticity of the original.”

Committee Notes on Rules—2011 Amendment

The language of Rule 1003 has been amended as part of the restyling of the Evidence Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic only. There is no intent to change any result in any ruling on evidence admissibility.

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