DEFINITION OF " TEST FOR
RELEVANT EVIDENCE "
"Relevant evidence" means evidence having any tendency to make the existence of
that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than
it would be without the evidence.
Evidence is relevant if:
(a) it has any tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and
(b) the fact is of consequence in determining the action.
Rule 401 was amended, effective March 1, 2014.
This definition of "relevant evidence" has been adopted by the North Dakota
Court. State v. Hendrickson, 240 N.W.2d 846, Syllabus Para2 (N.D. 1976). The definition
presents no conceptual departures from traditional thoughts on the subject of relevancy.
language of Rule 401 is intended to reflect the realization that stringent legal standards
cannot be meaningfully applied to govern determinations of relevancy and, consequently,
that the area is one best left to the wide discretion of the trial court.
One point merits attention, and that is that evidence may be relevant even though
toward a fact that is not in dispute. As stated in the Advisory Committee's Note to Rule 401,
Federal Rules of Evidence:
"While situations will arise which call for the exclusion of evidence offered to
prove a point
conceded by the opponent, the ruling should be made on the basis of such considerations as
waste of time and undue prejudice (see Rule 403), rather than under any general requirement
that evidence is admissible only if directed to matters in dispute. Evidence which is
essentially background in nature can scarcely be said to involve disputed matter, yet it is
universally offered and admitted as an aid to understanding."
Rule 401 was amended, effective March 1, 2014, in response to the December 1, 2011, revision of the Federal Rules of Evidence. The language and organization of the rule were changed to make the rule more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. There is no intent to change any result in any ruling on evidence admissibility.
Sources: Joint Procedure Committee Minutes
: of April 26-27, 2012,
page 13; April 8, 1976,
page 19; October 1, 1975, page 3. Rule Fed.R.Ev. 401 ,
Federal Rules of Evidence; Rule
401, SBAND proposal.