What Is Hearsay?
Hearsay is defined as an out-of-court statement used in court to prove that something is true. In other words, it is evidence produced by someone who is not in court. Hearsay can be written or spoken, but generally cannot be used as evidence at trial because it is inadmissible in court. This is because when a person is not in court, but their words and information are being used, a judge and jury cannot determine the credibility of the person.
For example, if hearsay evidence were admissible, jurors could convict defendants based on rumors and gossip from people who are not inside the courtroom. It’s not always easy to track down the people who provided such statements nor evaluate their trustworthiness if they’re not in court. This prevents the defendant from cross-examining the person, or source, of the hearsay.
However, despite the possible unreliability of hearsay, there are several exceptions to the hearsay rule, which is why our Santa Barbara criminal defense attorneys believe it is important to discuss seven exceptions to hearsay evidence.
- Present Sense Impression: A statement made by a declarant describing an event or condition during or after it occurred.
- Excited Utterance: Similar to present sense impression, excited utterance occurs during or after an event or condition occurred but must relate to a startling event or condition that triggered utterance under the stress of excitement.
- Then-Existing Mental, Emotional, or Physical Condition: A statement used to show a declarant’s then-existing mental, physical, sensory or emotional condition. This exception does not intend to prove the truth, but rather the declarant’s state of being.
- Public Records and Reports: Trustworthy records, reports, statements and data from public offices or agencies may be admitted as hearsay evidence in court if they set out:
- the office’s activities
- a matter observed while under a legal duty to report but not including a matter observed by law-enforcement personnel in a criminal case
- factual findings from a legally authorized investigation in a civil case or against the government in a criminal case
- Statements for purposes of medical diagnosis or treatment: Trustworthy statements relating to medical history, symptoms, pain and sensations in addition to their inception or cause may be used as hearsay evidence in court.
- Declaration against interest: A statement made by a declarant that goes against their own interests but is only admissible as hearsay if it is supported by corroborative evidence, or evidence that supports existing evidence or testimonies.
Charged with a Crime in Santa Barbara?
There are about 23 federal hearsay exceptions, although some states have their own. Generally, states follow federal hearsay rules, but only a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney will know how to use them to your advantage. At Appel & Morse, we are intimately familiar with hearsay evidence and the exceptions, and will ensure your rights are not being violated by the prosecution’s use of hearsay.
The last thing you need is for you or someone else’s words and actions to incriminate you. As such, we advise that you reach out to us online or by calling (805) 467-6060 to discuss your criminal charges.