Prior consistent statements and prior inconsistent statements

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Prior consistent statements and prior inconsistent statements, in the law of evidence, occur where a witness, testifying at trial, makes a statement that is either consistent or inconsistent, respectively, with a previous statement given at an earlier time such as during a discovery, interview, or interrogation. The examiner can impeach the witness when an inconsistent statement is found, and may conversely bolster the credibility of an impeached witness with a prior consistent statement.

Impeachment with a prior inconsistent statement

Before the witness can be impeached the examiner must have extrinsic evidence of the prior statement. The examiner must also provide the witness with the opportunity to adopt or reject the previous statement. [1]

Most prior inconsistent statements may not be introduced to prove the truth of the prior statement itself, as this constitutes hearsay, but only to impeach the credibility of the witness. However, under Federal Rule of Evidence 801 and the other U.S. jurisdictions that have adopted it, a prior inconsistent statement may be introduced as evidence of the truth of the statement itself if the prior statement was given in live testimony and under oath as part of a formal hearing, proceeding, trial, or deposition.[2]

Bolstering with a prior consistent statement

A prior consistent statement may be introduced to bolster a witness in response to any attack on the credibility of that witness, including a prior inconsistent statement. A prior consistent statement can not be introduced into evidence unless and until the credibility of the witness has been attacked.

One form of prior consistent statement is excepted from this rule, that of prior identification by the witness of another person in a lineup.


  1. ^ Federal Rules of Evidence, Rule 613
  2. ^ In some U.S. jurisdictions, a prior inconsistent statement signed or adopted by a witness is admissible both for impeachment and substantive purposes. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Brady, 507 A.2d 66 (Pa. 1986). This approach has been rejected in the federal system.