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Evidence: Relevance

Guide to Evidence

Relevance and Prejudice are two of the main pillars of evidentiary law.  While not equivalent, their meaning and importance are intertwined.  To be admitted at trial, all evidence must be relevant to an issue in the trial.  Essentially, relevant evidence is any information that demonstrates an issue or fact in contention to be more or less likely to be true.  Non-relevant evidence not only wastes the court's time, it risks causing the finder of fact to think negatively of one party, which can cause a decision based on prejudice and not logical reasoning.  An important point to remember is that evidence that is initially inadmissible on the basis of relevance may become relevant if the other party "opens the door" by placing it at issue in the trial.  A common example of "opening the door" is evidence of a person's character or past crimes.

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Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education