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I don't know how to use impeachment of evidence. How is this used in court? If a motion in limine is used, what happens at the hearing for that motion? Does a judge need to see evidence of facts when you argue your facts to reflect a dishonest act?

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  • Anyone have any comments on this topic? Sep 6, 2022 at 19:39
  • The law can be different in different states and countries, I apply the majority U.S. rules of evidence in my answer.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 7, 2022 at 0:36

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Impeachment evidence is evidence offered at an evidentiary hearing or trial to show that something a witness testified about (or a document previously admitted into evidence) is false.

Impeachment evidence may be admissible in some circumstances even if lack of pre-trial disclosure of the evidence would bar it, even if it isn't otherwise relevant to the case, and even if it might be hearsay.

The relaxed admissibility of the evidence reflects the judgment of evidence rule writers that it is hard to predict that someone will lie under oath about a matter upon which you can prove the falsity of, but that it is important that the evidence be admitted in order for the trial to be fair.

Impeachment evidence could be sworn testimony of a witness, documentary evidence, or a request to take judicial notice of a fact. The evidence is offered to the court in the same way as any other testimony, document, or request to take judicial notice, but the standard of what is admissible evidence (as opposed to evidence that can be excluded for violating the rules of evidence) is different. The admission process is the same, only the ruling on an objection to the evidence, if the other side makes one, would be different.

For example, suppose that Bob testifies in court in a will contest trial that he was in New York City on the morning of 9-11-2001 where he saw his late father's last will and testament being signed, and Bob's ex-girlfriend happens to be present in the courtroom as a spectator. She was not disclosed as a witness prior to trial, but she is put on the stand as a witness to testify that actually Bob was having breakfast at a restaurant with her in Chicago to announce their engagement on the morning of 9-11-2001 and hence that he couldn't have seen the last will and testament signed in NYC. The fact that they got engaged in this time and place, in and of itself, isn't relevant to the pending lawsuit, because the engagement was not logically related to whether the will was signed or not. But, nonetheless, Bob's ex-girlfriend's testimony would be admissible as impeachment evidence to show that Bob's previous testimony in the case was false.

If instead of testimony from the ex-girlfriend, the lawyer for the person opposing Bob's testimony offered up newspaper clipping showing him at a Chicago restaurant at the relevant time and place that was not previously disclosed and a witness authenticated the newspaper clipping, that would also be admissible as an exhibit to impeach Bob's testimony.

After all evidence is admitted and all parties have rested their evidentiary cases, in closing arguments, you could then argue that the judge or jury as the case might be should not believe Bob's testimony about seeing the will being signed (or really about anything dependent upon his credibility) since the impeachment evidence that was admitted into evidence was more credible than Bob's testimony and contradicted his testimony.

If motion in limine is used, what happens at the hearing for that motion?

Generally impeachment evidence is not considered on a motion in limine because the allegedly false testimony or evidence of the other party hasn't been offered into evidence yet to impeach.

Does a judge need to see evidence of facts when you argue your facts to reflect a dishonest act

This doesn't make a lot of sense, but maybe the discussion above will clarify the issue.

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  • "to show that something a witness testified about (or a document previously admitted into evidence) is false": I have always understood it to mean "to call the truth of [other evidence] into question." Is the term in fact properly limited to the stronger meaning given in this answer? (Or am I perhaps ascribing more strength than is warranted to "show"?)
    – phoog
    Sep 7, 2022 at 9:00
  • The impeachment of Evidence of conviction is the type of evidence in referring to. This is under rule 609(a)(2). Which is admissible as long as the conviction is related to a dishonest act or false statement. If the opposing party does initiate a motion in linem, would specific evidence to show facts need to be provided to the judge during that motion? I hope I'm not confusing it. Sep 7, 2022 at 9:59
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    @phoog I don't think that the definition you propose and the one that I used are different. You are ascribing more strength to the word "show" than I intended.
    – ohwilleke
    Sep 7, 2022 at 14:32

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