Have you heard of hearsay? Many have as it is an objection commonly proclaimed and featured in legal dramas in films and novels alike. While you may have heard it asserted with conviction on your favorite TV show, what exactly does it mean? Hearsay refers to a prominent rule of evidence and can be important in a criminal trial. We will talk more about it here.
What Is Hearsay?
Hearsay is defined as an out of court statement made to the truth of the matter asserted. In other words, if a witness relays a statement made out of court to prove the truth of the matter asserted, it will be considered hearsay. If deemed hearsay, it will be inadmissible unless it falls into an exception.
To be hearsay, the statement relayed by a witness must have been made outside of the courtroom. A statement may be written or oral and can even include body language. The “to prove the truth of the matter asserted” element is perhaps the most complicated and difficult to understand. An example may make it easier to demonstrate. For instance, if the statement “Hey! That car ran a red light!” was said by someone else and presented by the witness to prove that the care ran the red light, then it would be deemed to be hearsay. If offered for another purpose, however, it may not be considered hearsay.
It can also be helpful to know the reasoning behind the hearsay rule in order to better understand hearsay in general. You see, the hearsay rule developed as a means to guard against things like unreliable gossip being admissible in court. Hearsay involves statements made by someone who is not on the witness stand and who is out of court. This means that the statement is not made under oath nor is the person who made the statement currently available to be cross-examined. In other words, the general ban on hearsay is in place to guard against unreliable testimony.
While there may be a general prohibition on hearsay, there are several notable exceptions to hearsay. These hearsay exceptions make otherwise inadmissible hearsay statements admissible. One such exception is the present sense impression. This makes an exception for hearsay statements that were made during or right after an event that either describe or explain an event or condition. Similarly, there is an excided utterance exception. With the excited utterance exception, a hearsay statement made as a result of a startling event, when the declarant was under the stress or excitement triggered by the event, may be admissible.
Criminal Defense Attorneys
At Navarrete & Schwartz, our attorneys are well-versed in the rules of evidence and skilled at advocating for our clients as we vigorously defend them against all criminal charges. We are also happy to help answer any questions our clients may have along the way. We are here to fight for you. We are proud to serve the residents of Midland, Texas. Contact us today.