701.2Purpose and Construction [Rule 102]

Last Updated: 03/21/21

Key Concepts

  • The rules of evidence should be interpreted to promote fairness, justice, and efficiency.
  • If the rules do not sufficiently advise the court on the admissibility of evidence, case precedent should be followed.
  • The existence of rules regulating the admissibility of evidence does not deprive the defendant of the due process right to present a defense.

The Basic Rule

Rule 102 - Purpose and Construction

(a) In general. – These rules shall be construed to secure fairness in administration, elimination of unjustifiable expense and delay, and promotion of growth and development of the law of evidence to the end that the truth may be ascertained and proceedings justly determined.

(b) Subordinate divisions. – For the purpose of these rules only, the subordinate division of any rule which is labeled with a lower case letter shall be a subdivision.

G.S. 8C-102.

Legal Overview

As stated in Rule 102(a), the core purpose of the Rules of Evidence is to achieve fairness, efficiency, and justice by ensuring that only relevant and reliable evidence is considered by the finder of fact. See generally State v. Lopez, 363 N.C. 535 (2009); State v. Bogle, 324 N.C. 190 (1989); State v. Smith, 315 N.C. 76 (1985).

The Official Commentary to Rule 102 explains that although the rules themselves should provide a satisfactory answer most evidentiary questions, “there are some evidentiary questions that are not within the coverage of these rules. In these instances, North Carolina precedents will continue to control unless changed by our courts.” Federal cases interpreting comparable rules of evidence, although not binding on the state courts, may also be referenced for guidance and enlightenment. See State v. Quesinberry, 325 N.C. 125 (1989), vacated 494 U.S. 1022, on remand 327 N.C. 480, on remand 328 N.C. 288.

Rules limiting and regulating how the parties must present facts and arguments in court do not violate due process, so long as they “do[ ] not shut out from the parties affected a reasonable opportunity to submit to the jury in their defense all the facts bearing upon the issue.” State v. Lassiter, 13 N.C. App. 292 (1971); see also State v. Evans, 73 N.C. App. 214 (1985) (due process only requires that the defendant has a reasonable opportunity to submit all relevant facts to jury).

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