Authentication and the First Step

Authentication is merely the first step in introducing a piece of evidence. Just because the evidence passes the low threshold of being what it claims to be, does not mean it will pass other Rules of Evidence (e.g., hearsay, relevance, probative, etc.). SCRE 901 provides a non-exhaustive list of methods to authenticate a piece of evidence.

Evidence offered to authenticate other evidence must still be admissible under the Rules of Evidence. In this case, the State improperly elicited testimony that the defendant’s fingerprint card originated from a prison many years before the current charge. The State claimed they needed this testimony in order to authenticate the fingerprint card; however, the court held that it was not necessary because the burden to authenticate is low and there are several other way that they could have authenticated the card. “As a result, the State may not bootstrap improper character evidence into admissible testimony by simply claiming it is offered to authenticate other evidence. This is especially true when the State can overcome the low threshold of authentication with otherwise admissible evidence such as a stipulation or, as discussed above, under Rule 901(b)(7).” · State v. Lawson, 424 S.C. 51 (Ct. App. 2018)

· Berry v. Spang, No. 2017-001690, 2021 WL 116347 (S.C. Ct. App. Jan. 13, 2021)The burden to authenticate is low.