Rule 405. Methods of Proving Character.

 (a)  By Reputation. When evidence of a person’s character or character trait is admissible, it may be proved by testimony about the person’s reputation. Testimony about the witness’s opinion as to the character or character trait of the person is not admissible.

   (1)  On cross-examination of the character witness, the court may allow an inquiry into relevant specific instances of the person’s conduct probative of the character trait in question.

   (2)  In a criminal case, on cross-examination of a character witness, inquiry into allegations of other criminal conduct by the defendant, not resulting in conviction, is not permissible.

 (b)  By Specific Instances of Conduct. Specific instances of conduct are not admissible to prove character or a trait of character, except:

   (1)  In a civil case, when a person’s character or a character trait is an essential element of a claim or defense, character may be proved by specific instances of conduct.

   (2)  In a criminal case, when character or a character trait of an alleged victim is admissible under Pa.R.E. 404(a)(2)(B) the defendant may prove the character or character trait by specific instances of conduct.

Comment

   Pa.R.E. 405(a) differs from F.R.E. 405(a). The first sentence of Pa.R.E 405(a) permits proof of character or a character trait by reputation testimony, as does F.R.E. 405(a). But the second sentence specifically prohibits opinion testimony about character or a trait of character. This prohibition is consistent with prior Pennsylvania law. See Commonwealth v. Lopinson, 427 Pa. 284, 234 A.2d 552 (1967), vacated on other grounds, 392 U.S. 647 (1968).

   Pa.R.E. 405(a) also differs from F.R.E. 405(a) in that there are two subparagraphs, Pa.R.E. 405(a)(1) and Pa.R.E. 405(a)(2), dealing with cross-examination of a character witness. Pa.R.E. 405(a)(2) prohibits cross-examination of a criminal defendant’s character witnesses regarding criminal conduct of the defendant not resulting in conviction. This is consistent with prior Pennsylvania law. See Commonwealth v. Morgan, 559 Pa. 248, 739 A.2d 1033 (1999). When a reputation witness is cross-examined regarding specific instances of conduct, the court should take care that the cross-examiner has a reasonable basis for the questions asked. See Commonwealth v. Adams, 426 Pa. Super. 332, 626 A.2d 1231 (1993).

   Pa.R.E. 405(b) differs from F.R.E. 405(b). Unlike F.R.E. 405(b), Pa.R.E. 405(b) distinguishes between civil and criminal cases in permitting the use of specific instances of conduct to prove character.

   With regard to civil cases, Pa.R.E. 405(b)(1) is similar to the Federal Rule in permitting proof of character by specific instances of conduct where character is an essential element of the claim or defense. This is consistent with prior Pennsylvania law. See Matusak v. Kulczewski, 295 Pa. 208, 145 A. 94 (1928); Dempsey v. Walso Bureau, Inc., 431 Pa. 562, 246 A.2d 418 (1968). With regard to criminal cases, under Pa.R.E. 404(a)(2)(B), the accused may offer evidence of a pertinent trait of character of the alleged crime victim. Under Pa.R.E. 405(b)(2) the trait may be proven by specific instances of conduct without regard to whether the trait is an essential element of the charge, or defense. This is consistent with prior Pennsylvania law. See Commonwealth v. Dillon, 528 Pa. 417, 598 A.2d 963 (1991).

   Official Note

   Adopted May 8, 1998, effective October 1, 1998; amended July 20, 2000; effective October 1, 2000; rescinded and replaced January 17, 2013, effective March 18, 2013.

   Committee Explanatory Reports:

   Final Report explaining the July 20, 2000 amendment of paragraph (a) concerning allegations of other criminal misconduct published with the Court’s Order at 30 Pa.B. 3920 (August 5, 2000).

   Final Report explaining the January 17, 2013 rescission and replacement published with the Court’s Order at 43 Pa.B. 651 (February 2, 2013).

Source

   The provisions of this Rule 405 amended July 20, 2000, effective October 1, 2000, 30 Pa.B. 3919; rescinded and replaced January 17, 2013, effective in sixty days, 43 Pa.B. 620. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (317757) to (317758) and (338879).



No part of the information on this site may be reproduced for profit or sold for profit.

This material has been drawn directly from the official Pennsylvania Code full text database. Due to the limitations of HTML or differences in display capabilities of different browsers, this version may differ slightly from the official printed version.