The IT Law Wiki


United States v. Farris, 517 F.2d 226 (7th Cir. 1975) (full-text).

Factual Background[]

The defendant was convicted of willfully failing to file his income tax returns. The Government introduced a printout prepared by the Treasury Department which showed no record of receiving defendant's tax returns for the years 1967-1971. Defendant objected to the output on the basis that there was no proper foundation establishing its reliability.

Appellate Court Proceedings[]

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals first noted that properly authenticated copies of government documents are admissible as evidence.[1] It further noted that Fed. R. Civ. P. 44(b)[2] allows for a written statement by a proper official as valid authentication. In this case, the Director of the National Computer Center for the Treasury Department certified the search of the computer records. The certificate was authenticated by the Treasury Department seal. The court held that under these circumstances, the authentication guaranteed reliability, and additional foundational testimony was unnecessary.

The defendant argued that even if government authenticated documents are admissible, 28 U.S.C. §1733(b) does not pertain to computer printouts. The court, recognizing the growing acceptance of electronically kept records, found that the statute does apply. The court cited the Federal Rules of Evidence, which allow for the admission of records, including "data compilations in any form."[3] The court therefore affirmed the judgment.[4]


  1. 28 U.S.C. §1733(b) states that "properly authenticated copies or transcripts of any books, records, papers, or documents of any department or agency of the United States shall be admitted in evidence equally with the originals thereof."
  2. This provision is made applicable to criminal proceedings by Fed. R. Crim. P. §27.
  3. Fed. R. Evid. 803(7).
  4. The court noted that additional testimony indicated that the records were kept in the regular course of business, which would make them admissible under 28 U.S.C. §1732. However, since the records were admissible under 28 U.S.C. §1733(b), that testimony was superfluous. 517 F.2d at 229 n.2.