711.3Admissibility of Duplicates [Rule 1003]
- A duplicate is admissible to the same extent as an original, unless there is a genuine question about the authenticity of the original or a reason why it would be unfair to admit the duplicate.
- A “duplicate” means any counterpart made from the same matrix as the original or an accurate copy of the original made by photographic, chemical, digital, or other means.
The Basic Rule
Rule 1003 – Admissibility of Duplicates
A duplicate is admissible to the same extent as an original unless (1) a genuine question is raised as to the authenticity of the original or (2) in the circumstances it would be unfair to admit the duplicate in lieu of the original.
Duplicates Generally Admissible
Rule 1003 governs the admissibility of duplicates. A “duplicate” can be a counterpart made from the same matrix as the original (such as a second printing run off the same template), or an accurate copy made by photographic, mechanical, electronic, chemical, or other comparable means (e.g., a Xerox or digital copy). See G.S. 8C-1001(4). For more information, see the related Evidence entry on Contents of Writings: Definitions [Rule 1001].
Under Rule 1003, a duplicate is admissible to the same extent that the original would be, as long as there is no genuine dispute about the authenticity of the original or another reason why it would be unfair to admit the duplicate. G.S. 8C-1003. The official commentary to the rule explains that “[w]hen the only concern is with getting the words or other contents before the court with accuracy and precision,” a counterpart that results from a method that ensures accuracy and genuineness “serves equally as well as the original.” G.S. 8C-1003, Official Commentary. The commentary further explains that “by definition in Rule 1001(4) . . . a ‘duplicate’ possesses this character.” Id.
See, e.g., State v. Ferguson, 145 N.C. App. 302 (2001) (in murder and robbery prosecution, admitting a copy of motel registration card that contained defendant's signature did not violate “best evidence” rule, where motel owner testified that duplicate of card was an “exact copy” of original card and defendant had not raised any issue regarding the authenticity of original card); see also State v. Denning, 233 N.C. App. 108 (2014) (unpublished) (holding that it was not error to allow bank teller to testify about the name listed on photocopies of identification cards that the defendant presented when cashing a check, based on the admissibility of duplicates under Rule 1003 and the admissibility of the copies to corroborate testimony about what transpired at the bank); State v. Tesar, 166 N.C. App. 516 (2004) (unpublished) (finding no error in allowing introduction of a photocopy of officer’s certificate from DHHS without offering the original, where the defendant in a DWI prosecution “did not raise any question as to the genuineness of the permit and has not pointed to any circumstances requiring admission of the original”).
Limitations on Admissibility
As noted above, a duplicate may be excluded under Rule 1003 if there is: (i) a genuine question about the authenticity of the original; or (ii) another reason why it would be unfair under the circumstances to allow the introduction of a duplicate. G.S. 8C-1003. The official commentary directs courts to “be liberal in permitting questions of genuineness to be raised.” G.S. 8C-1003, Official Commentary. Courts should “examine the quality of the duplicate, the specificity and sincerity of the challenge, the importance of the evidence to the case, and the burdens of producing the original before determining whether a genuine question of authenticity is raised.” Id.; see, e.g., State v. Felton, 220 N.C. App. 416 (2012) (unpublished) (purported copy of a power of attorney offered by the defense was properly excluded since there was “no corroborating evidence . . . as to the original document's existence” and “defendant received the copy of the POA in an anonymous envelope with no return address,” rendering the document “suspicious”). Additionally, “other reasons for requiring the original may be present when only a part of the original is reproduced and the remainder is needed for cross-examination or may disclose matters qualifying the part offered or otherwise useful to the opposing party.” G.S. 8C-1003, Official Commentary.
If the opposing party fails to timely object to the admissibility of the duplicate and provide a valid reason why the authenticity of the original is in question or the use of a duplicate would be unfair, the admission of the duplicate is unlikely to be deemed error on appeal. See, e.g., State v. Howard, 215 N.C. App. 318 (2011) (finding no plain error where defendant failed to object to admissibility of duplicates; if he had, “the State could have properly authenticated it and either provided the originals of the social security card and receipts to comply with the ‘best evidence rule’ or explained why admission of duplicates was appropriate”); see also State v. Young, 248 N.C. App. 815 (2016) (finding no plain error where defendant failed to object to admissibility of duplicates of identification cards and receipts; explaining that “[s]ince defendant has made no showing that the foundational prerequisites, upon objection, could not have been supplied and has pointed to nothing suggesting that the evidence in question is inaccurate or otherwise flawed, we decline to conclude the omissions discussed above amount to plain error”); State v. Bailey, 223 N.C. App. 521 (2012) (unpublished) (“This Court has held that it is not plain error to admit a copy when the defendant fails to present evidence that the duplicate is not authentic and the State could have laid the proper foundation had the defendant objected”), citing State v. Jones, 176 N.C. App. 678 (2006) (“Since defendant has made no showing that the foundational prerequisites, upon objection, could not have been supplied and has pointed to nothing suggesting that the videotape in this case is inaccurate or otherwise flawed, we decline to conclude the omissions discussed above amount to plain error.”).