WHAT IS HEARSAY?
Due to the many legal shows that exist on TV, the average person knows that hearsay is not allowed in court. However, just because the average person knows that hearsay isn’t allowed does not mean that they know what hearsay is. So what exactly is hearsay?
Hearsay is any out of court statement, verbal or written, made by a third-party, that is offered for the truth of the matter asserted. Hearsay is banned in court by the rules of evidence in Federal and state court due to the unreliability of the statement. Generally, in order for a statement to be entered as evidence in court, the original person who made the statement must be the one who makes the statement and there must be an opportunity for the person to be cross-examined. Basically, courts are suspicious of any statement that is repeated by another person because of the possibility of a miscommunication or a purposeful twisting of the statement.
The following is an example of hearsay: Mike tells Sam that the car that was involved in the hit-and-run accident was red. Later, Sam is called to the witness stand and he testifies that Mike told him that the car involved in the hit-and-run was red. Generally, this statement would not be allowed in as evidence because it is hearsay.
Although the hearsay ban seems to be pretty absolute, there are quite a few exceptions that allow hearsay to be admitted in as evidence. Generally, these statements are allowed in because they are considered to be reliable or accurate. Here are some examples of the numerous exceptions:
- Business records – typically, written documents are not allowed in because they are hearsay. However, if it can be established that the written document is produced in the regular course of business and a custodian of the record testifies the document is true, the document can be brought in as evidence
- Excited utterances – courts have established that when a speaker makes a statement in reaction to being excited or startled, the statement can be allowed in since people typically do not lie or make inaccurate statements in their reactions
As you can see, hearsay is a complex and involved topic that is not easily understood. This is especially true when attempting to deal with it in a trial. Many attorneys require years of experience and countless trials to be able to fully grasp the subject of hearsay. As such, it is important to hire an experienced and competent attorney when dealing with potential hearsay evidence.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney that can help zealously defend your case. Contact Us at Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation on your case.
James Minick is founder and C.E.O. of Minick Law, P.C. James is committed to providing top notch legal services through his team of highly specialized legal professionals. James will defend your rights.