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Understanding the Texas Rules of Evidence: Judicial Notice for New Criminal Lawyers

By Sholdon Daniels

If you're a new criminal lawyer in Texas, understanding the rules of evidence is crucial to your success. The Texas Rules of Evidence are a set of guidelines that determine what evidence can be presented in a court of law, and how it can be presented. In this guide, I'll focus on Article II of the rules, which covers Judicial Notice.


Rule 201 covers judicial notice of adjudicative facts. An adjudicative fact is a fact that is relevant to the case and can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The court may take judicial notice of a fact that is generally known within the trial court’s territorial jurisdiction or can be accurately and readily determined from sources whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned. If a party requests judicial notice, the court must take notice if supplied with the necessary information. The court may take judicial notice at any stage of the proceeding, but a party is entitled to be heard on the propriety of taking judicial notice and the nature of the fact to be noticed.


Rule 202 covers judicial notice of other states’ law. The court may take judicial notice of another state’s, territory’s, or federal jurisdiction’s constitution, public statutes, rules, regulations, ordinances, court decisions, and common law. If a party requests judicial notice, the court must take notice if supplied with the necessary information. A party is entitled to be heard on the propriety of taking judicial notice and the nature of the matter to be noticed. The court—not the jury—must determine the law of another state, territory, or federal jurisdiction.


Rule 203 covers determining foreign law. If a party intends to raise an issue about a foreign country’s law, they must give reasonable notice by a pleading or other writing and supply all parties with any written materials or sources they intend to use to prove the foreign law at least 30 days before trial. If the materials or sources were originally written in a language other than English, the party intending to rely on them must supply all parties with a copy of the foreign language text and an English translation. The court may consider any material or source, whether or not admissible, in determining foreign law. The court—not the jury—must determine foreign law.


Rule 204 covers judicial notice of Texas municipal and county ordinances, the contents of the Texas Register, and agency rules published in the Texas Administrative Code. The court may take judicial notice of these materials, and a party is entitled to be heard on the propriety of taking judicial notice and the nature of the matter to be noticed. The court—not the jury—must determine municipal and county ordinances, the contents of the Texas Register, and published agency rules.


Understanding the rules of evidence can be daunting, but it's a crucial part of being a successful criminal lawyer in Texas. By familiarizing yourself with the Texas Rules of Evidence, you'll be better equipped to represent your clients in court.


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