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In the realm of legal trials, evidence rules are essential to maintain fairness and uphold justice. In Washington State, Evidence Rule 404 holds significant importance, especially when dealing with character evidence in court proceedings. In this article, we’ll provide a comprehensive understanding of Washington State Evidence Rule 404, its purpose, and its impact on legal proceedings.

The Basics of Washington State Evidence Rule 404

Washington State Evidence Rule 404 is a crucial part of the broader framework governing the admissibility of evidence in court. Specifically, Rule 404 addresses how evidence related to a person’s character can be introduced during a trial. It’s essential to recognize that the primary goal of this rule is to strike a balance between admitting relevant evidence and preventing unfair bias and distractions within the courtroom.

Breaking Down Rule 404

Rule 404 is organized into several subsections, each with its own specific provisions:

  1. Character Evidence Generally Inadmissible for Proof of Conduct: Subsection (a) of Rule 404 establishes a fundamental principle: evidence of a person’s character cannot be used to prove their behavior on a specific occasion. In simpler terms, you can’t introduce someone’s character as evidence to argue that they acted a certain way because it aligns with their character.
  2. Exceptions for a Defendant or Victim in a Criminal Case: Subsection (b) makes exceptions to the general rule for both the defendant and the victim in a criminal case. It allows for the introduction of character evidence when it is directly relevant to the case, such as the defendant’s prior actions if they are crucial in proving a material fact.
  3. Character Evidence in Civil Cases: Subsection (c) addresses character evidence in civil cases. It’s generally less restrictive compared to criminal cases, permitting evidence of a person’s character when it’s relevant to the issues in the case.
  4. Methods of Proving Character: Subsection (d) outlines the methods for establishing character evidence, including reputation or opinion evidence. It also permits cross-examination and the introduction of specific instances of conduct.

The Significance of Rule 404

Washington State Evidence Rule 404 is of utmost importance as it maintains a balance between ensuring a fair trial and preventing undue bias or prejudice against a party. By limiting the admissibility of character evidence, the rule ensures that trials stay focused on specific facts and issues rather than descending into character attacks or distractions.


Washington State Evidence Rule 404 plays a pivotal role in guiding trials within the state. Its careful balance between admitting relevant evidence and safeguarding against undue prejudice is vital for achieving justice in the courtroom. Understanding the nuances of this rule is crucial for legal practitioners, ensuring that evidence is presented and utilized in a way that upholds the principles of fairness and equity in Washington State’s legal system.

You can Read the text of Washington ER 404 here:

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About Blanford Law:

We are no-nonsense, relentless, fair, and honest. We are great listeners instead of fast talkers, that is just who we are. More than 20 years ago, Ken began practicing law with a deeply-seeded belief that every person has the right to the best legal representation available. He built his law firm on that belief. Another belief that he strongly adheres to is his fundamental belief that clients deserve respect, with no assumptions or preconceived notions.  If you or someone you know is accused of a crime or injured as a result of the negligence of another, please have them call us at 253-720-9304 or email us