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How does the court approach hearsay evidence?

On Behalf of | Jun 27, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Evidence is incredibly important in a criminal court case. The rules concerning evidence are essential to ensuring the right to a fair trial and preventing either side from overstepping the law.

One of the rules most people know about because of seeing it mentioned in movies and television shows is concerning hearsay evidence.

Hearsay defined

Hearsay evidence is that which involves a statement made outside of court. Typically, hearsay presented in fiction is when someone on the stand says that another person made a specific statement, and an attorney objects that it is hearsay.

Exceptions to hearsay rules

Hearsay may seem straightforward, but many exceptions allow it to be admissible. For example, if someone makes a statement outside of court in the heat of the moment, it may be admissible as evidence presented by someone else as proof of their state of mind. In that situation, it is not about what the person actually said but rather about how they were acting and thinking at that time.

Courts may also allow the admission of statements made to medical providers or things others say about that person to establish reputation. It often comes down to the reliability of the person presenting the hearsay evidence and the intention of the use of the evidence as to whether a court allows it into the record.

In general, courts are cautious about hearsay because it is difficult to prove it is accurate. The court typically relies on first-person statements as evidence because that is more reliable. It is too easy for someone to hear something and misinterpret or misremember it, which is why courts will often strike down hearsay evidence as inadmissible.