Rule 901: Requirement of Authentication or Identification.

Article IX. Authentication


(a) General Provision - The requirement of authentication or identification as a condition precedent to admissibility is satisfied by evidence sufficient to the court to support a finding by the trier of fact that the matter in question is what its proponent claims.

(b) Illustrations - By way of illustration only, and not by way of limitation, the following are examples of authentication or identification conforming with the requirements of this rule:

(1) Testimony of Witness With Knowledge.  Testimony that a matter is what it is claimed to be.

(2) Nonexpert Opinion on Handwriting.  Nonexpert opinion as to the genuineness of handwriting, based upon familiarity not acquired for purposes of the litigation.

(3) Comparison by Trier of Fact or Expert Witness.  Comparison by trier of fact or by expert witnesses with specimens which have been authenticated.

(4) Distinctive Characteristics and the Like.  Appearance, contents, substance, internal patterns, or other distinctive characteristics, taken in conjunction with circumstances.

(5) Voice Identification.  Identification of a voice, whether heard firsthand or through mechanical or electronic transmission or recording, by opinion based upon hearing the voice at any time under circumstances connecting it with the alleged speaker.

(6) Telephone Conversations.  Telephone conversations, by evidence that a call was made to the number assigned at the time by a telephone company to a particular person or business if (A), in the case of a person, circumstances including self-identification show the person answering to be the one called or (B), in the case of the business, the call was made to a place of business and the conversation related to business reasonably transacted over the telephone.

(7) Public Records or Reports.  Evidence that a writing authorized by law to be recorded or filed and in fact recorded or filed in a public office (or a purported public record, report, statement, or data compilation in any form) is from the public office where items of this nature are kept.

(8) Ancient Documents or Data Compilation.  Evidence that a document or data compilation in any form (A) is in such condition as to create no suspicion concerning its authenticity, (B) was in a place where, if authentic, it would likely be, and (C) has been in existence thirty years or more at the time it is offered.

(9) Process or System.  Evidence describing a process or system used to produce a result and showing that the process or system produces an accurate result.

(10) Methods Provided by Statute or Rule.  Any method of authentication or identification provided by Act of Congress or the Tennessee Legislature or by other rules prescribed by the Tennessee Supreme Court.

Advisory Commission Comments.

Section (a) makes the trial judge arbiter of authentication issues, as does the common law.

Subsection (b)(3) lets the trier of fact or an expert compare exemplars and questioned documents. The proposed draft corrects the mistake in Franklin v. Franklin, 90 Tenn. 44, 16 S.W. 557 (1891), where the Supreme Court construed T.C.A. § 24-7-108 to disallow purported forger's exemplar. See Amburn v. State, 553 S.W.2d 922 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1977), criticizing Franklin.

Subsection (b)(4) simply makes common sense. Without drawing the boundaries of practical possibilities, the rule allows proof to the court of a myriad of distinctive characteristics that may convince the judge that a questioned document is authentic enough to let the jury consider it.

Subsection (b)(9) treats authentication of computer documents. All that the lawyer need do is introduce evidence satisfying the court that the computer system produces accurate information.

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