701.1Scope of the Rules [Rule 101]

Last Updated: 04/30/21

Key Concepts

  • The Rules of Evidence generally apply to all court proceedings unless specifically excluded by another rule.
  • Proceedings where the rules do not apply include first appearances, probable cause hearings, hearings on motions to suppress, sentencing hearings, and probation revocation hearings.
  • Even when the rules do not specifically apply, due process requirements may limit the admissibility or use of some types of evidence.

The Basic Rule

Rule 101 – Scope

These rules govern proceedings in the courts of this State to the extent and with the exceptions stated in Rule 1101.

G.S. 8C-101.

Legal Overview

In conjunction with Rule 1101, the broad language of Rule 101 means that the Rules of Evidence generally apply to “all actions and proceedings in the courts of this State,” unless the proceedings are specifically exempted. G.S. 8C-1101(b) (rules of evidence do not apply to preliminary questions of fact, grand jury proceedings, contempt proceedings, and miscellaneous other proceedings including bail, first appearance, probable cause, sentencing, and probation revocation). Compare State v. Willis, 92 N.C. App. 494 (1988) (rules of evidence did not apply at contested sentencing hearing on whether defendant had provided substantial assistance in drug trafficking prosecution, because sentencing hearings are exempted under Rule 1101) with State v. Foster, 222 N.C. App. 199 (2012) (rules of evidence do apply to post-conviction DNA testing motions and hearings, because “motions for post-conviction DNA testing are not listed as an exception”).

However, even in situations where the statutory rules of evidence do not apply, basic constitutional standards of due process still apply to the court’s decision to admit or exclude any offered evidence. See, e.g., Holmes v. South Carolina, 547 U.S. 319 (2006) (due process right to present a defense); Bearden v. Georgia, 461 U.S. 660 (1983) (probation revocation determination must include inquiry into reasons for failure to pay fines or restitution); Gardner v. Florida, 430 U.S. 349 (1977) (confrontation at capital sentencing hearing); Morrissey v. Brewer, 408 U.S. 471 (1972) (due process requirements in parole revocation proceeding). The requirements of due process are determined on a case-by-case basis. See e.g., State v. Lombardo, 306 N.C. 594 (1982) (declining to apply exclusionary rule to bar use of unconstitutionally seized evidence in probation revocation hearing).

For more information about the applicability (or inapplicability) of the Rules of Evidence at particular proceedings, see the following related entries:

Evidence – Preliminary Questions of Admissibility [Rule 104]

Evidence – Applicability of Rules [Rule 1101]

Pretrial – Grand Jury Proceedings

Pretrial – Extradition

Pretrial – Initial and First Appearances

Pretrial – Release Conditions and Eligibility

Pretrial – Probable Cause Hearing Procedures

Pretrial – Hearings on Motions to Suppress

Contempt – Criminal (Summary Proceedings)

Juvenile – Probable Cause Hearings

Juvenile – Transfer Hearings

Sentencing – Conducting the Hearing

Portions of this entry were excerpted from Penny J. White, “The Rules of Evidence – An Introduction,” May 2015.