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LEGAL DICTIONARY

Hearsay

Hearsay, in US legal terms, refers to evidence that has been seen or heard by a witness about someone who is not present in court, that can be used to demonstrate the truth of an assertion. This can allow some indirect testimony to be used as evidence in a trial.

It is important to know that Hearsay is often inadmissible under US law but there are some situations where a judge or court may rule it valid. This article will look at these in more detail.

Notable Hearsay Exceptions

Hearsay may often be disregarded as evidence but there are a number of special circumstances where exceptions can be made.

For example, if a statement is made by a declarant and they are unavailable to testify on that statement in court, despite technically falling under the category of hearsay, the evidence could still be admitted.

Additionally, exceptions are usually allowed when the evidence provided via legal documents or witness testimony by someone with suitable personal knowledge of evidence (e.g. First-hand hearsay).

In order to properly use evidence in court use the following common examples as a guide to what it is and isn’t allowed as Hearsay.

Exception 1: Excited Utterances

A big exception to the rules of hearsay is when witness testimony of an “excited utterance” is given. For example, if in the heat of the moment someone expresses true information that is heard by a witness.

For this evidence to be admissible, the utterances would have to be made in a situation where the accused person is so angry or agitated that it would be unlikely or impossible to give a knowingly false statement.

Exception 2: Statement Against Interests

A statement against interests is more commonly called a confession or an admission. Confessional statements do not need to be formally provided by the accused themselves but can instead be provided by a witness who heard the confession.

Providing evidence under this kind of hearsay does not rule it inadmissible. However, the credibility of the witness may still be called into question by a lawyer defending the accused.

Exception 3: Matter of Record

Evidence provided that is a matter record is exempt from being declared Hearsay and is therefore admissible. This includes any official or legal documents such as:

These will only be admissible however if their accuracy can be confirmed by a witness. Therefore the witness who has brought the evidence must be suitably qualified to attest to the veracity and officiality of these documents.

Helpful resources:
Hearsay Definition - Cornell Law School
Exceptions to the Rule Against Hearsay - Cornell Law School

Hearsay, in US legal terms, refers to evidence that has been seen or heard by a witness about someone who is not present in court, that can be used to demonstrate the truth of an assertion. This can allow some indirect testimony to be used as evidence in a trial.

It is important to know that Hearsay is often inadmissible under US law but there are some situations where a judge or court may rule it valid. This article will look at these in more detail.

Notable Hearsay Exceptions

Hearsay may often be disregarded as evidence but there are a number of special circumstances where exceptions can be made.

For example, if a statement is made by a declarant and they are unavailable to testify on that statement in court, despite technically falling under the category of hearsay, the evidence could still be admitted.

Additionally, exceptions are usually allowed when the evidence provided via legal documents or witness testimony by someone with suitable personal knowledge of evidence (e.g. First-hand hearsay).

In order to properly use evidence in court use the following common examples as a guide to what it is and isn’t allowed as Hearsay.

Exception 1: Excited Utterances

A big exception to the rules of hearsay is when witness testimony of an “excited utterance” is given. For example, if in the heat of the moment someone expresses true information that is heard by a witness.

For this evidence to be admissible, the utterances would have to be made in a situation where the accused person is so angry or agitated that it would be unlikely or impossible to give a knowingly false statement.

Exception 2: Statement Against Interests

A statement against interests is more commonly called a confession or an admission. Confessional statements do not need to be formally provided by the accused themselves but can instead be provided by a witness who heard the confession.

Providing evidence under this kind of hearsay does not rule it inadmissible. However, the credibility of the witness may still be called into question by a lawyer defending the accused.

Exception 3: Matter of Record

Evidence provided that is a matter record is exempt from being declared Hearsay and is therefore admissible. This includes any official or legal documents such as:

These will only be admissible however if their accuracy can be confirmed by a witness. Therefore the witness who has brought the evidence must be suitably qualified to attest to the veracity and officiality of these documents.

Helpful resources:
Hearsay Definition - Cornell Law School
Exceptions to the Rule Against Hearsay - Cornell Law School