Rule 1005 – Copies of Public Records to Prove Content

The proponent may use a copy to prove the content of an official record — or of a document that was recorded or filed in a public office as authorized by law — if these conditions are met: the record or document is otherwise admissible; and the copy is certified as correct in accordance with Rule 902(4) or is testified to be correct by a witness who has compared it with the original. If no such copy can be obtained by reasonable diligence, then the proponent may use other evidence to prove the content.

Summary and Explanation

Federal Rule of Evidence 1005 deals with the admissibility of copies of public records as evidence. Here’s a summary and explanation:

Content of the Rule: Rule 1005 states that when a party wants to prove content from an official record, or a document recorded or filed in a public office as authorized by law, they can use a certified copy rather than the original.

Certified Copies: The rule specifies that these copies must be certified as correct in accordance with Rule 902, which outlines the requirements for self-authentication. This certification process assures the court of the copy’s accuracy and authenticity.

Purpose and Application:

  • Practicality: Since public records are often archived and may be difficult or impractical to physically bring into court, certified copies are a practical alternative.
  • Reliability: Certified copies are presumed to be reliable representations of the original public records.


  • Includes a broad range of public records, including documents filed with governmental agencies or bodies.
  • Not limited to government records within the United States; it also applies to foreign public documents that are certified accordingly.

In essence, Rule 1005 facilitates the use of public records in court by allowing certified copies to stand in for originals. This rule reflects the need for practicality and efficiency in legal proceedings, recognizing that requiring original public documents could be unnecessarily burdensome and may pose logistical challenges. Certified copies, with their verified accuracy, serve as a reliable and convenient alternative.


(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

Public records call for somewhat different treatment. Removing them from their usual place of keeping would be attended by serious inconvenience to the public and to the custodian. As a consequence judicial decisions and statutes commonly hold that no explanation need be given for failure to produce the original of a public record. McCormick §204; 4 Wigmore §§1215–1228. This blanket dispensation from producing or accounting for the original would open the door to the introduction of every kind of secondary evidence of contents of public records were it not for the preference given certified or compared copies. Recognition of degrees of secondary evidence in this situation is an appropriate quid pro quo for not applying the requirement of producing the original.

The provisions of 28 U.S.C. §1733(b) apply only to departments or agencies of the United States. The rule, however, applies to public records generally and is comparable in scope in this respect to Rule 44(a) of the Rules of Civil Procedure.

Committee Notes on Rules—2011 Amendment

The language of Rule 1005 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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