Reputation testimony is a type of character evidence. Reputation testimony is a type of hearsay testimony that is specifically permitted by the Texas rules of evidence. Rule 405 has very specific requirements and rules about what is permitted and what is not permitted.
Rule 405. Methods of Proving Character
- (a) Reputation or Opinion. In all cases in which evidence of character or character trait is admissible, proof may be made by testimony as to reputation or by testimony in the form of an opinion. In a criminal case, to be qualified to testify at the guilt stage of trial concerning the character or character trait of an accused, a witness must have been familiar with the reputation, or with the underlying facts or information upon which the opinion is based, prior to the day of the offense. In all cases where testimony is admitted under this rule, on cross-examination inquiry is allowable into relevant specific instances of conduct.
- (b) Specific Instances of Conduct. In cases in which a person’s character or character trait is an essential element of a charge, claim or defense, proof may also be made of specific instances of the person’s conduct.
Reputation testimony is unique in that it is not based upon personal knowledge of the witness. Generally speaking, witnesses can only testify to things that are within their personal knowledge. The largest exception to this rule is for expert testimony.
Reputation testimony not only does not have to be based upon personal knowledge but it is not permitted to be based upon personal knowledge. Reputation testimony must be based upon a person’s reputation within a community and not based upon an individual’s personal observations. One of the most important requirements of reputation testimony under Texas rule of evidence 405 is that the knowledge of the person’s reputation must have been gained before the offense was alleged to have been committed.