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ER 405 is a critical legal provision that outlines the permissible methods of proving a person’s character in court proceedings. This rule, which underwent amendments over the years, plays a pivotal role in the judicial system, particularly in cases where character evidence is relevant.

A. Reputation as Evidence (Subsection a)

Under subsection (a), when a person’s character or a trait of character is admissible in a case, it can be proven through testimony about the individual’s reputation. This means that witnesses may speak about the general perception of the person’s character in the community. Importantly, during cross-examination, it is permissible to inquire into specific instances of conduct that are relevant to the person’s reputation. This aspect ensures a fair and comprehensive assessment of the character evidence presented.

B. Specific Instances of Conduct (Subsection b)

Subsection (b) expands on this by allowing the introduction of evidence about specific instances of a person’s conduct. This is particularly significant in cases where character or a trait of character is an essential element of a charge, claim, or defense. This provision enables a more direct and detailed examination of the individual’s character through their past actions.

Amendments and Evolution

The rule was originally adopted on April 2, 1979, and has since undergone changes to better suit the evolving legal landscape. The most notable amendment came into effect on September 1, 1992, refining the methods of proving character. However, it’s important to note that Comment 405 related to this rule was deleted effective September 1, 2006, indicating a shift in the judicial approach to character evidence.

Implications in Legal Proceedings

The application of ED 405: ER 405 is vital in various legal scenarios. For instance, in criminal cases, the character of the defendant can be a crucial element, particularly in establishing patterns of behavior or credibility. Similarly, in civil cases, character evidence can be significant in matters like defamation or child custody disputes.


ED 405: ER 405 embodies the legal system’s attempt to balance the relevance and fairness of character evidence in judicial proceedings. It ensures that character can be proven through both reputation and specific conduct, providing a comprehensive framework for the courts to evaluate such evidence. As legal standards continue to evolve, the interpretation and application of this rule will remain a key aspect of judicial decision-making.

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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