What Is Hearsay?
Hearsay is a form of evidence that is provided by someone who acquired the information secondhand. This person is called on to testify because the person with first-hand knowledge is not present to provide testimony. Therefore, the other party cannot cross-examine the person with first-hand evidence, which is why hearsay evidence is a generally less-favorable form of evidence. The hearsay rule usually prohibits the information from being admitted as evidence in court.
Are There Exceptions to the Hearsay Rule?
Yes, there are numerous exceptions to the hearsay rule that allow this secondhand evidence to be admitted at trial. Although the exact exceptions may vary between jurisdictions, they normally include:
- A statement made under stress, also known as an excited utterance
- A statement made present sense impressions
- A statement made to obtain medical treatment
- Public and business records
- Any admission of liability or guilt
- Prior statements that are inconsistent with each other
- Dying declarations
Is the Hearsay Rule the Same as the Missing Evidence Rule?
No. The missing evidence rule dictates how a jury must interpret situations where fails to show evidence at trial. If the party does not show a necessary piece of evidence, the jury is allowed to conclude the evidence was not presented because it was damaging to the case. The missing evidence rule does apply to witness testimony and documents.
What Is the Confrontation Clause?
The confrontation clause is a clause in the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This clause guarantees a criminal defendant the right to confront witnesses testifying against them. The confrontation clause makes it harder to allow hearsay evidence in a criminal court case.
Is Hearsay Allowed in a Probable Cause Hearing?
It depends on the circumstances. A probable cause hearing is a pretrial stage of a criminal case. During the hearing, a judge determines whether probable cause actually exists. Since the proceeding is less formal and there is less at stake than at an actual criminal trial, hearsay evidence may be allowed.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Determine Whether I Can Use Hearsay Evidence?
Although hearsay evidence is not as favorable as primary evidence, it can still be valuable if it is admissible and no other evidence exists. Contact a criminal lawyer to learn more about hearsay and see if hearsay evidence can be used in your case.