Rule of Completeness

The rule of completeness (sometimes called the “doctrine of completeness”) is found in Florida Statute Section 90.108(1), Florida Statutes, which reads, in pertinent part, as follows:

When a writing or recorded statement or part thereof is introduced by a party, an adverse party may require him or her at that time to introduce any other part or any other writing or recorded statement that in fairness ought to be considered contemporaneously.

In Larzelere v. State, 676 So.2d 394, 401 (Fla.1996), the Florida Supreme Court noted that section 90.108 is known as the “rule of completeness.”

The purpose of the rule of completeness is “to avoid the potential for creating misleading impressions by taking statements out of context.” Id. (citing Charles W. Ehrhardt, Florida Evidence § 108.1 (1995 ed.)).

The plain language of the statute requires the adverse party to introduce the other part of the statement at the time that the first party introduces the statement. Nevertheless, the courts in Florida have sometimes allowed the adverse party to delay introducing the other part of the statement until cross-examination. See, e.g., Vazquez v. State, 700 So.2d 5, 8-9 (Fla. 4th DCA 1997). This practice is noted in Ehrhardt, Florida Evidence at § 108.1 nn. 4-5 (2007 ed.).

AAlthough the language of the statute does not specifically refer to oral statements, the courts have applied the rule of completeness to such statements. See Ehrhardt, Florida Evidence at § 108.1 n. 7 (2007 ed.).

The courts have generally found that the fairness determination noted in the rule “falls within the discretion of the trial judge.” Larzelere, 676 So.2d at 402.

This article was last updated on Tuesday, February 5, 2019.