Massachusetts law about evidence

Online and print information about evidence law.

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Table of Contents

What is evidence?

According to Black’s Law Dictionary, evidence is "something (including testimony, documents, and tangible objects) that tends to prove or disprove the existence of an alleged fact; anything presented to the senses and offered to prove the existence or nonexistence of a fact" or "the collective mass of things, esp. testimony and exhibits, presented before a tribunal in a given dispute." Information about the evidence that will be presented in court is shared with both sides of a court case through the process of discovery. For more on this formal process, please see our law about page on discovery.

Massachusetts Guide to Evidence

Massachusetts Guide to Evidence

Massachusetts does not have official rules of evidence though there have been efforts over the years to gather state evidence law in various documents and texts. In 1982, the Supreme Judicial Court rejected the proposed Massachusetts Rules of Evidence as a general codification of the law of evidence.  The Massachusetts Evidentiary Standards were organized in a manner similar to the Federal Rules of Evidence in 1989.  The Massachusetts Guide to Evidence was first published in 2008 by the Supreme Judicial Court Advisory Committee and continues to be published annually with explanatory notes and citations. 

"The Supreme Judicial Court recommends the use of the Massachusetts Guide to Evidence. Our recommendation of the Massachusetts Guide to Evidence is not to be interpreted as an adoption of a set of rules of evidence, nor a predictive guide to the development of the common law of evidence."

(Introduction to the Guide to Evidence)

Federal rules of evidence

Federal rules of evidence for use in federal court proceedings.

Massachusetts court rules

Massachusetts general laws

Print sources

To help you prepare points of evidence for your case, here are some of the topics you might need to research and some titles at the law libraries that may help:

  • Witnesses: competency, hearsay, lay testimony, expert testimony, privileges, admissions, confessions
  • Documents: authentication, best evidence rule, business records, hospital records, certified copies
  • Trial Issues: burden of proof, relevance, how to introduce evidence into trial (foundation requirements)

Annotated guide to Massachusetts evidence, (Mass. Practice v. 20A) West, annual.  
Article I General Provisions – Article II Judicial Notice – Article III Inferences, Prima Facie Evidence, and Presumptions -Article IV Relevancy and Its Limits – Article V Privileges and Disqualifications – Article VI Witnesses – Article VII Opinion and Expert Evidence – Article VIII Hearsay – Article IX Authentication and Identification – Article X Contents of Writings and Records – Article XI Miscellaneous Sections – Appendix A Federal Rules of Evidence – Appendix B Dwyer Order.

Evidence, 3rd ed. (Mass. Practice v. 19 & 20, West, 2016 with annual supplement.
Article I General Provisions – Article II Judicial Notice – Article III Inferences, Prima Facie Evidence, and Presumptions -Article IV Relevancy and Its Limits – Article V Privileges and Disqualifications – Article VI Witnesses – Article VII Opinion and Expert Evidence – Article VIII Hearsay – Article IX Authentication and Identification – Article X Contents of Writings and Records – Article XI Miscellaneous Rules – Appendix A The Massachusetts Evidentiary Finder – Appendix B  Massachusetts Trial Objections—Most Useful Objections Overview – Appendix C  Massachusetts Trial Objections – Appendix D proposed Rules of Massachusetts Evidence – Appendix E Massachusetts Guide to Evidence – Appendix F  Federal Rules of Evidence.

The handbook of Massachusetts evidence, Wolters Kluwer, annual.
Ch. 1 General provisions – Ch. 2 Judicial admissions, judicial notice and binding testimony – Ch. 3 Burden of proof, presumptions and inferences – Ch. 4 Relevance and circumstantial proof – Ch. 5 Privileges and disqualifications – Ch. 6 Witnesses – Ch. 7 Opinion and expert testimony – Ch. 8 Hearsay – Ch. 9 Authentication – Ch. 10 The best evidence rule – Ch. 11 Eyewitness identification evidence – Ch. 12 Confessions and incriminating statements – Ch. 13 Opening statements and closing argument – Ch. 14 Evidence in administrative proceedings. 

Massachusetts evidence: a courtroom reference, MCLE, annual.
Ch. 1 Introduction and exclusion of evidence, burdens of proof - Ch. 2 Judicial admissions and evidentiary admissions - Ch. 3 Witness competency - Ch. 4 Evidentiary privileges - Ch. 5. Hearsay - Ch. 6 Expert testimony - Ch. 7 Unavailable witnesses - Ch. 8 Real evidence - Ch. 9 Documentary evidence - Ch. 10 Impeachment

Massachusetts guide to evidence, MCLE, annual
Article I General Provisions - Article II Judicial Notice - Article III Inferences, Prima Facie Evidence, and Presumptions - Article IV Relevancy and its Limits - Article V Privileges and Disqualifications - Article VI Witnesses - Article VII Opinion and Expert Evidence - Article VIII Hearsay - Article IX Authentication and Identification Article X Contents of Writings and Records - Article XI Miscellaneous - Addendum. Federal Rules of Evidence Comparison Chart

Massachusetts proof of cases, v. 2.  West, annual.  
Ch. 67. Introduction to Massachusetts Evidence Law – Ch. 68. Burden of Proof – Ch. 69. Documentary Evidence – Ch. 70. Evidentiary Privileges – Ch. 71. Expert and Opinion Testimony – Ch. 72. Hearsay Rules and Exceptions – Ch. 73. Quality and Quantity of Evidence – Ch. 74. Real or Demonstrative Evidence – Ch. 75. Relevancy and Circumstantial Evidence – Ch. 76. Scientific Evidence – Ch. 77. Testimonial Evidence

A practical guide to introducing evidence, 5th ed. 2020, MCLE, loose-leaf.  
Ch. 1  A Practical introduction to pre-trial and trial practice – Ch. 2  Introduction of evidence – Ch. 3 Presumptions and facts established without formal proof – Ch. 4 Evidentiary exclusions and limitations – Ch. 5 Witness competency and qualifications – Ch. 6 Witness corroboration and support – Ch. 7 Identification – Ch. 8 Reputation – Ch. 9 Impeachment – Ch. 10 Rehabilitation – Ch. 11 Privilege and disqualification – Ch. 12 Hearsay exceptions involving state of mind – Ch. 13 Documentary evidence – Ch. 14 Demonstrative evidence.

The pocket guide to Massachusetts evidence, MCLE, annual.  

Suppression matters under Massachusetts law, Lexis-Nexis, annual.
Ch. 1 The Origins and purposes of the exclusionary rule – Ch. 2 Predicates to filing a motion to suppress : physical evidence, statements and identifications – Ch. 3 A motion to suppress evidence : is the fourth amendment or is Article 14 implicated? – Ch. 4 Field encounters and the stop – Ch. 5 Field encounters and the frisk – Ch. 6 The law of arrest – Ch. 7 The mechanics of issuing and returning a search warrant – Ch. 8 The standard for issuing a search warrant – Ch. 9 Types of warrants and warrant features – Ch. 10 The probable cause determination – Ch. 11 Consent searches – Ch. 12 Searches incident to a lawful arrest – Ch. 13 Plain view seizures – Ch. 14 The exception for probable cause and exigent circumstances and the motor vehicle exception – Ch. 15 Inventory searches/storage searches – Ch. 16 Administrative searches – Ch. 17 Special needs searches – Ch. 18 Motions to suppress statements: the Fifth Amendment, the Sixth Amendment, Article 12, and "humane practice" – Ch. 19 Motions to suppress identifications – Ch. 20 The scope of suppression

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Last updated: May 30, 2024

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