What Is the Role of Hearsay in Criminal Cases?
Hearsay refers to a statement that has been made by someone to a witness, who, while that witness is testifying in court proceedings repeats that same statement. The statement can be categorized as hearsay in the courts only if it is offered for the truth of the contents.
Usually, courts will exclude hearsay evidence in trials, whether or not the trial is criminal in nature. A hearsay ban is in place to prevent juries from considering secondhand information that cannot, due to its nature, be subject to cross examination. The primary goal of the hearsay rule is to ensure that any evidence presented at trial is as reliable as possible. Given the dire consequences faced by criminal defendants, many courts do not want juries to rely on gossip that cannot be corroborated. Certain out of court statements may still be accepted in criminal cases and not categorized as hearsay. If the statement is used to provide something besides the content of the statement, it’s not categorized as hearsay. The hearsay rule has numerous exceptions, including dying declarations and business or official records.
Consulting with your criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after you have been accused may help you determine whether or not any of the material presented by witnesses from the prosecution or in your own case could be categorized as hearsay. Knowing what evidence applies in your criminal case and how it can be used to protect your rights is extremely valuable as you go forward to avoid the consequences of conviction.