Character Evidence Law and Legal Definition

Character evidence refers to evidence regarding someone's general personality traits or propensities. It can be of a praiseworthy or blameworthy nature. It can also be evidence of a person's moral standing, general nature, traits, and reputation in a community. Character evidence is usually permitted when a person's honesty is an issue.

According to USCS Fed Rules Evid R 405, the methods of proving character are :

1. Reputation or opinion. In all cases in which evidence of character or a trait of character of a person is admissible, proof may be made by testimony as to reputation or by testimony in the form of an opinion. On cross-examination, inquiry is allowable into relevant specific instances of conduct.

2. Specific instances of conduct. In cases in which character or a trait of character of a person is an essential element of a charge, claim, or defense, proof may also be made of specific instances of that person's conduct.

Character evidence is usually, but not always, prohibited if offered to show that the person acted in conformity with that character. It can be used to prove the Character of accused, Character of alleged victim and Character of witness. Evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith. It may, however, be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake or accident, provided that upon request by the accused, the prosecution in a criminal case shall provide reasonable notice in advance of trial, or during trial if the court excuses pretrial notice on good cause shown, of the general nature of any such evidence it intends to introduce at trial.[ USCS Fed Rules Evid R 404]

According to USCS Fed Rules Evid R 608, the credibility of a witness may be attacked or supported by evidence in the form of opinion or reputation, only if (1) the evidence refers only to character for truthfulness or untruthfulness, and (2) evidence of truthful character is admissible only after the character of the witness for truthfulness has been attacked by opinion or reputation evidence or otherwise.