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225 Pa. Code Rule 103. Rulings on Evidence.

Rule 103. Rulings on Evidence.

 (a)  Preserving a Claim of Error. A party may claim error in a ruling to admit or exclude evidence only:

   (1)  if the ruling admits evidence, a party, on the record:

       (A)   makes a timely objection, motion to strike, or motion in limine; and

       (B)   states the specific ground, unless it was apparent from the context; or

   (2)  if the ruling excludes evidence, a party informs the court of its substance by an offer of proof, unless the substance was apparent from the context.

 (b)  Not Needing to Renew an Objection or Offer of Proof. Once the court rules definitively on the record—either before or at trial—a party need not renew an objection or offer of proof to preserve a claim of error for appeal.

 (c)  Court’s Statement About the Ruling; Directing an Offer of Proof. The court may make any statement about the character or form of the evidence, the objection made, and the ruling. The court may direct that an offer of proof be made in question-and-answer form.

 (d)  Preventing the Jury from Hearing Inadmissible Evidence. To the extent practicable, the court must conduct a jury trial so that inadmissible evidence is not suggested to the jury by any means.


   Pa.R.E. 103(a) differs from F.R.E. 103(a). The Federal Rule says, ‘‘A party may claim error in a ruling to admit or exclude evidence only if the error affects a substantial right of the party. . . .’’ In Pennsylvania criminal cases, the accused is entitled to relief for an erroneous ruling unless the court finds beyond a reasonable doubt that the error is harmless. See Commonwealth v. Story, 476 Pa. 391, 383 A.2d 155 (1978). Civil cases are governed by Pa.R.C.P. No. 126 which permits the court to disregard an erroneous ruling ‘‘which does not affect the substantial rights of the parties.’’ Pa.R.E. 103(a) is consistent with Pennsylvania law.

   Pa.R.E. 103(a)(1) specifically refers to motions in limine. These motions are not mentioned in the Federal rule. Motions in limine permit the trial court to make rulings on evidence prior to trial or at trial but before the evidence is offered. Such motions can expedite the trial and assist in producing just determinations.

   Pa.R.E. 103(b), (c) and (d) are identical to F.R.E. 103(b), (c) and (d).

   F.R.E. 103(e) permits a court to ‘‘take notice of a plain error affecting a substantial right, even if the claim of error was not properly preserved.’’ This paragraph has not been adopted because it is inconsistent with Pa.R.E. 103(a) and Pennsylvania law. See Commonwealth v. Clair, 458 Pa. 418, 326 A.2d 272 (1974); Dilliplaine v. Lehigh Valley Trust Co., 457 Pa. 255, 322 A.2d 114 (1974).

   Official Note

   Adopted May 8, 1998, effective October 1, 1998; amended November 2, 2001, effective January 1, 2002; rescinded and replaced January 17, 2013, effective March 18, 2013.

   Committee Explanatory Reports:

   Final Report explaining the November 2, 2001 amendments to paragraph (a) published with the Court’s Order at 31 Pa.B. 6384 (November 24, 2001).

   Final Report explaining the January 17, 2013 rescission and replacement published with the Court’s Order at 43 Pa.B. 651 (February 2, 2013).


   The provisions of this Rule 103 amended November 2, 2001, effective January 1, 2002, 31 Pa.B. 6381; rescinded and replaced January 17, 2013, effective in sixty days, 43 Pa.B. 620. Immediately preceding text appears at serial pages (316996) and (341549).

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