Documentary Evidence Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Documentary Evidence, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Documentary Evidence?

n. Papers which are allowed as evidence in a hearing or trial. Documents are differ from oral testimony. Opposing attorneys may object to documentary evidence being admitted to court and has to be proved by other evidence to be authentic.

History and Meaning of Documentary Evidence

Documentary evidence refers to papers that can be presented to be considered as proof in a legal proceeding or hearing. Generally, the term “documentary evidence” includes any written or printed material that has been created, executed, or authorized by a person who has personal knowledge of the facts contained within the document, and that can be used in a court case to support a claim or defense.

The use of documentary evidence dates back to ancient times when it was used in the form of tablets or papyrus scrolls. Over time, the use of documentary evidence has evolved, and currently, it includes electronic documents such as emails and text messages. Due to the essential nature of documentary evidence, the process of admitting these documents into evidence has become more streamlined, and they are generally accepted as proof within a legal setting if they meet certain conditions.

Examples of Documentary Evidence

  1. In a case where a person is suing a hospital for medical malpractice, medical records and reports can be used as documentary evidence to support or refute the claim.

  2. In a criminal case, a video recording taken at the scene of the crime could be admitted as documentary evidence.

  3. In a divorce case, bank statements, insurance policies, and invoices can be considered documentary evidence during the asset division process.

Legal Terms Similar to Documentary Evidence

  1. Demonstrative evidence - Refers to physical objects, such as photographs, diagrams, or charts, that are used in a court case to demonstrate a point.

  2. Real evidence - This is tangible evidence that can be touched, seen, or heard in the court, such as a weapon or a piece of clothing.

  3. Hearsay evidence - Evidence that is not based on personal knowledge, but rather on what the witness has heard said by someone else.