This update permits self-authentication by a certified person certifying that she verified the hash value of the provided item and found it to be identical to the original. Rule 902(14) only applies to authentication, and any attempt to meet a hearsay exemption must be undertaken separately. For example, if a document is hearsay and also self-authenticates, then we can conclude that the hearsay exception does not apply.
Under the law of evidence in the United States, a self-authenticating document is any document that can be allowed into evidence at a trial without proof to support the allegation that the document is what it seems to be. These documents include public records such as court orders and statutes; letters from officials with finding of authenticity; and certified copies of records maintained by government agencies. Certificates of analysis from forensic laboratories are also self-authenticating documents.
Examples of self-authenticating documents include:
A copy of a will found in a safe deposit box or other location where only the testator had access;
A receipt for property that was seized during an arrest;
A newspaper article describing an event such as a murder or natural disaster; and
A government record such as a census report or police blotter entry.
In addition to these examples, many private documents may constitute self-authenticating evidence if they meet specific criteria set forth by state laws regarding admissibility of handwriting comparisons, tape recordings, and photographs. The fact that such documents have been found to be authentic does not need to be proved up at trial. They are deemed self-authenticating and do not require further testimony to establish their validity.
Evidence can be directly authenticated in a variety of ways. For example, if a party confesses to the existence and/or execution of a document in the pleadings, responses to interrogatories, deposition testimony, stipulation, or testimony at trial, such admission is enough to authenticate the document. In addition, witnesses who have personal knowledge of the events recorded in documents they testify about must also be examined about their familiarity with the documents and whether they recognize them as accurate representations of what was done or said.
Documents that support an affidavit are also self-authenticating. That is, they don't need to be identified by someone with knowledge of the facts. For example, a notary public certificate attesting to the authenticity of an affidavit is sufficient proof of its validity.
In some cases, documents may not be directly identifiable but still validly authentic. For example, a letter written by one party and received by another may be admitted as evidence without identification if there is no dispute about who wrote it or when it was sent. Or, a memorandum describing negotiations between two parties may be admitted into evidence if the authorship is not in question. In both examples, the absence of a signature on the document makes it impossible for the jury to evaluate the credibility of the author(s).
Finally, a document may be deemed authentic by law even if it cannot be positively identified.
When a government agency or other body requests a copy of a document, it is frequently indicated as certified, notarized, or original. It is sometimes stated as "self-attested." By signing a Self-Attestation, the document's owner certifies that the photocopy of the original document is a genuine copy. The term "self-attested" means that you have seen evidence that the document is what it claims to be.
Photocopies do not carry legal significance unless they are self-attesting. In other words, they cannot become official copies of records until they are signed by someone with authority to do so. This may include but is not limited to the custodian of records for the organization that produced the document. If a record has been altered in any way, whether intentionally or unintentionally, it should not be used as proof of any matter pertaining to civil proceedings.
Self-attested photocopies are useful tools for lawyers to use when attempting to prove the authenticity of documents. For example, if there is a dispute over the contents of an affidavit, then the lawyer can use an unnotarized photocopy of the affidavit to demonstrate to the court that the document contains information relevant to the case and was, in fact, filed by the person who claims to have signed it. Photocopies are only valid evidence of their own content, however; they cannot be used to prove the content of any matter other than that which they appear to relate.