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What is hearsay and why is it important?

| Dec 15, 2017 | criminal defense |

If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense, then you are probably considering your criminal defense options. Researching these options and making important decisions can be challenging, though, especially if you have very little or no legal experience of your own. If that is the case, then you may not know what to look for when choosing an attorney to represent you, which can place you at a significant disadvantage. This week we want to discuss one important legal concept that is crucial for your defense attorney to know and understand: hearsay.

Hearsay is a statement made outside of court and testified to by another individual for purposes of proving the truth of the statement’s contents. For example, if Jim testifies that Bob said the sky is blue for the purpose of proving that the sky is blue, then Jim has just testified as to hearsay. Generally speaking, hearsay is inadmissible in court, as it disallows the other side from cross-examining the individual who made the statement.

There are, however, a number of exceptions to the rule against hearsay. A statement made by your opponent, for example, is not considered hearsay. Business records, statements that are made spontaneously and statements made for the purposes of medical treatment may all be exempted from the hearsay ban. Even statements that portray the speaker’s mental state at the time, or his or her perception of an event shortly after it occurred, may be admissible even though it is hearsay.

Why is this important to you? One major reason is because sometimes it is difficult to track down witnesses to testify. In these instances, it may be key for you to find and utilize a hearsay exception. It might also help you admit a significant amount of evidence without the need of a witness, such as in the event of business records. If you wind up choosing an attorney without a firm grasp on hearsay and other rules of evidence, you may be putting yourself on your back foot and setting yourself up for failure. Therefore, you should be sure that you choose your criminal defense attorney carefully, ensuring that he or she is competent in this area of the law.