Best Evidence Law and Legal Definition

Best evidence refers to a rule of evidence that requires an original of a writing, recording, or photograph in order to prove its content. Where the best evidence rule applies, copies of the original will not be accepted unless it can be shown that the original is unavailable due to no fault of the party offering the evidence. This operates as a rule of exclusion. When the original is not available, other evidence, like copies, notes, or other testimony can be used. It is sometimes called the "original writing rule".

The exceptions to the rule are as follows:

1. When the original has been lost or destroyed, or cannot be produced in court, without bad faith on the part of the offeror;

2. When the original is in the custody or under the control of the party against whom the evidence is offered, and the latter fails to produce it after reasonable notice;

3. When the original consists of numerous accounts or other documents which cannot be examined in court without great loss of time and the fact sought to be established from them is only the general result of the whole; and

4. When the original is a public record in the custody of a public officer or is recorded in a public office."