Hearsay: What it is and Its Related FAQ’s

Todd Bennett

Verified By: Neda Manshoory

What is hearsay in a criminal case?

In the context of a legal proceeding, the term “hearsay” refers to a statement that was made by a witness who did not see or hear the event in question but was instead repeating something that they were told by another individual. Because it cannot be independently verified or challenged by the opposing party, this category of evidence is typically excluded from consideration in legal proceedings.

Why is hearsay generally not admissible in criminal cases?

Since hearsay cannot be independently checked or cross-examined, it is typically excluded from criminal trials. Since the original witness cannot be called to testify and subjected to cross-examination by the defense, the statement cannot be evaluated for its veracity or trustworthiness.

It’s also possible that the original speaker was motivated by biases or interests that aren’t obvious to the listener, which could cast doubt on the veracity or correctness of the remark being repeated. For all these reasons, the use of hearsay in legal proceedings is often frowned upon as being excessively untrustworthy.

Are there any exceptions to the rule against hearsay in criminal cases?

There are, in fact, various exceptions to the norm in criminal proceedings that prohibits the use of hearsay. Some instances include:

Dying declaration

A statement that is thought to have been made by a person who is terminally ill and that is given as evidence to prove the cause of death or the circumstances surrounding it.

Excited utterance

A statement that was made by a person while they were under the impact of a stunning incident or condition, and the statement was supplied to show the reality of the matter that was expressed in the statement.

Statement against interest

A statement that, at the time it was made, went against the declarant’s interests and was later given as evidence to prove that the statement’s contents were accurate.

Declarations of a co-conspirator

A statement that was made by a co-conspirator throughout the course of the conspiracy and in furtherance of it. The statement was supplied to prove the existence of the conspiracy as well as the participation in it.

Business records

A record of an act, event, condition, opinion, or diagnosis that was made at or near the time by, or from information transmitted by, a person with knowledge is offered as evidence to prove the matter stated if the record was kept in the course of a regularly conducted activity of a business, and if it was the regular practice of that activity to make the record.

Statements of an unavailable declarant

A declaration that was previously made by a declarant who is no longer available to testify and that is given as evidence to prove the truth of the matter expressed in the statement.

These exemptions are founded on the idea that some kinds of statements are regarded reliable notwithstanding the fact that the person making the statement cannot be subjected to cross-examination.

Can hearsay be admissible if the judge finds the statement to be trustworthy?

Because it is seen as having a low level of credibility, hearsay is typically excluded from the pool of evidence that can be considered in criminal proceedings. However, as I mentioned earlier, there are a few noteworthy deviations from this general rule. These exemptions are founded on the general idea that some kinds of statements are trusted even if the person making them cannot be subjected to cross-examination, however there are a few exceptions to this rule.

In addition, the court has the authority to exercise discretion in determining whether or not the statement is reliable enough to be presented as evidence. When deciding whether or not to admit hearsay as evidence, for instance, the judge in some countries may take into consideration aspects such as the nature of the statement, the declarant’s opportunity to watch the incident in question, and the declarant’s relationship to the persons involved.

However, even if the court believes the statement to be reliable, the judge still has the discretion to decide whether or not to admit it into evidence. The rules of evidence still apply to the statement.

Can the defense use hearsay evidence?

Due to its inherent unreliability, hearsay evidence is typically excluded from legal proceedings. An example of hearsay is a remark produced in court as evidence that was made by someone other than the witness. When a witness is not physically present in court, it is impossible to assess the truthfulness of their testimony through questioning or cross-examination.

The hearsay rule, however, does not always apply. The following are some exceptions that may or may not apply, depending on the applicable law:

  • Words spoken by someone who is unable to testify in court because of death or incapacity.
  • Claims made throughout the course of a criminal plot.
  • Profession-related declarations, such as those seen in documents and reports.
  • Diagnoses and treatments based on statements made by the speaker.

Even though the prosecution has already utilized hearsay, the defense may still introduce it. Note that the rules and exceptions pertaining to hearsay vary greatly from one jurisdiction to the next.

Is hearsay evidence admissible in a trial by jury?

Hearsay testimony is almost always disallowed in court proceedings held in the United States in front of a jury. Hearsay is any statement that is made outside of a formal legal action that is subsequently used to support the truthfulness of the claim made in the proceeding.

The term “hearsay” refers to any remark made outside of a formal legal proceeding. Testing the credibility of each witness is an essential component of the adversarial process. However, when the witness who made the statement is not there for cross-examination, the statement cannot be put to the test because the person who made it is not there.

However, there are a few circumstances in which comments made under conditions of need or dependability may be presented as evidence. These circumstances are among the rare exceptions to the rule that hearsay cannot be used as evidence that are recognized by the courts.

Can a statement made to the police be considered hearsay?

If the statement that was made to the police is included in the report that is being used as evidence, then the statement could be considered hearsay. A statement that a defendant admitted guilt by stating, “I did it,” would be ruled hearsay because the court did not actually observe the defendant making such a statement.

For example, if a witness testifies that the defendant said, “I did it,” such a statement would be considered hearsay. There are, however, several exceptions to the rule that hearsay cannot be used as evidence.

These exceptions permit police interviews and statements to be used as evidence. For instance, if a comment is provided to demonstrate the impact on the audience or if it is made during the investigation or prosecution, it is possible that the statement will not be eliminated as hearsay evidence.

In addition, a comment made to the police by a person who is under stress or excitement created by an event may be permissible in some jurisdictions due to the “excited utterance” exception. This is because of the potential for the person to not be thinking clearly.

How does hearsay differ from a statement made under oath?

A statement made under oath is different from hearsay in a few key ways.

  • First, a witness testifies in court under oath and can be questioned by the other side’s lawyer. Conversely, hearsay is a remark made outside of court that is offered as evidence.
  • Second, a witness is legally bound to tell the truth when testifying under oath because doing otherwise would be a criminal offence. However, unlike a statement provided under oath, a hearsay statement is not subject to the same amount of examination as to its veracity.
  • Third, testimony given under oath is often accepted in court, while hearsay is not.

Statements made under oath are admissible in court because they are made by a witness in the courtroom who can be subjected to cross-examination and because they are made under the threat of perjury. However, statements made by someone else are not admissible due to the lack of opportunity for cross-examination and the general consensus that they cannot be trusted.

Can a recorded conversation be considered hearsay?

If you want to use a recording of a discussion as proof that what you say actually happened, you should know that the law considers this to be hearsay. When the prosecution uses a videotape of the defendant admitting to a crime as evidence that the defendant committed the crime, the prosecution is employing what is known as hearsay. A recorded conversation may not be admissible in court under the hearsay rule, however there are some exceptions to this rule.

  • An assertion made by an adversary (opponent-party admission)
  • Confederate Statement
  • Confessional statement given by a conspirator in advancement of the plot.
  • A recorded statement made by an individual who is not physically present to testify.

When it comes to the question of whether or not recorded conversations can be admitted as evidence, it is essential to keep in mind that different legal systems may adhere to a variety of different standards and have a variety of different exceptions.

Can a statement made on social media be considered hearsay?

If a social media post is being used as evidence, it may be considered hearsay because the author cannot be directly verified. If a witness testifies that they observed a social media post in which the defendant acknowledged to committing a crime, and that post is then utilized as evidence, the witness’ testimony would be hearsay.

However, just as there are a number of exceptions to the hearsay rule that may make a comment on social media acceptable in court, the same is true for recorded discussion. For example,

  • An assertion made by an adversary (opponent-party admission)
  • Confederate Statement
  • Evidence that can be used to determine someone’s mental or intentional state or the nature of their future actions.

How does the hearsay rule apply to expert witness testimony?

To the same extent that the hearsay rule applies to other types of testimony, it also applies to the testimony of experts. An expert witness must not rely on hearsay evidence in proving the veracity of the matter alleged. If the hearsay is pertinent to the facts of the case and is being supplied for a valid purpose, such as to clarify the expert’s thinking, then it may be admissible.

If an expert witness is testifying on the findings of a scientific study undertaken by someone else, for instance, he or she is not permitted to testify as to the veracity of the study’s findings but is permitted to utilise the study’s findings as a basis for testimony and express their own opinion. Here, the expert is not endorsing the accuracy of the test results; rather, they are using them to back up an opinion they have formed.

It’s worth noting that experts can sometimes utilize hearsay evidence if one of the exceptions to the hearsay rule applies. The “learned treatise” exemption, for instance, protects expert witnesses who depend on assertions made in authoritative texts and treatises to support their testimony.

When it comes to the issue of whether or not expert witness testimony and hearsay evidence can be admitted into court, it is essential to keep in mind that different legal systems may adhere to distinct sets of laws and recognize varying exceptions.

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Todd Bennett is a five-year criminal defense attorney. He is dedicated to defending the accused and has won several criminal cases. Todd Bennett uses his significant criminal justice experience to create customized defense tactics for each client. Todd Bennett frequently speaks at legal gatherings, offering his criminal defense expertise and staying abreast of industry advancements. Criminal defendants trust Todd Bennett's vigorous advocacy and commitment to client success.