Hearsay evidence is considered is generally not admissible in criminal court because it is evidence heard second-hand, and, thus, is considered less reliable. However, there are exceptions to the rule prohibiting hearsay evidence from being admitted. These exceptions allow certain forms of second-hand testimony, or hearsay, to be admitted in a criminal trial. One exception is called the dying declaration exception.

What Is the Dying Declaration Exception?

A dying declaration is a statement made by a person who is at the point of death, but conscious. The dying person’s statement makes a connection between the individual who harmed them and the injuries suffered. For example, the dying victim will tell someone such as the police who stabbed them.

Can Anyone’s Dying Declaration Be Used in Any Criminal Trial?

No. The dying declaration exception is a very narrow exception that only require a statement to meet several requirements in order to be admitted into court. These requirements are:

  • The statement must have been made by the victim
  • The victim must make the statement at the time that they believe death is imminent
  • The victim must be at least unavailable by the time the evidence is offered at trial, although some states require the victim to be dead by the time of the trial
  • The statement can only be introduced in a homicide case
  • The statement must focus on the circumstances of the victim’s death
  • The statement must name the defendant or be used against the defendant

What Is a Homicide?

A homicide is killing of a human being. The crime includes both intentional deaths such as murder and non-intentional deaths such as manslaughter.

Is a Dying Declaration Considered Expert Eyewitness Testimony?

No. An expert witness is considered one qualified to speak on a specific circumstance such as accident reconstruction. A person making a dying declaration is not an expert, even though they are likely the best person to know information about their own death.

Should I Contact an Attorney about a Dying Declaration in My Case?

A dying declaration is often considered very strong evidence, especially if it identifies the criminal defendant as the perpetrator of the crime. Contact a criminal attorney to understand more about how a dying declaration may affect your case and how you can defend yourself against such a statement.