Blog

If There's a Rule Against Hearsay, Why Does it Get Into Court So Often?

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Nov 22, 2019 | 0 Comments

In our last blog post, we discussed hearsay and why it matters, as well as why it's been in the news so much lately.

While any single blog post will always fail to convey all of the intricacies inherent in hearsay law, it is still worth at least summarizing some of the ways that hearsay can be admissible in a court proceeding, whether because the evidence is reliable enough or the hearing uses more relaxed rules of evidence.

Hearsay: Out-of-Court Statements Used to Prove What They Concern

Legally, the definition of hearsay is usually given as oral testimony that is both:

  • Of an out-of-court statement, and
  • Is being used to prove the matter asserted.

If there was a trial over whether it rained yesterday, and Jill was testifying, it would be hearsay if she said, “Bob said that it rained yesterday.”

The point of labeling a statement as hearsay – and therefore keeping it out of trial – is that it is unreliable. Not only could the person testifying be misremembering what was said, but there is a more reliable source of information: The speaker, him- or herself.

Forcing that speaker to the witness stand also opens them up to the cross-examination that is so essential in criminal trials.

There Are Around 30 Hearsay Exceptions

Just because a statement was made outside of the courtroom and is being used to prove the matter it asserts, though, does not necessarily end the discussion. Courts have recognized around 30 exceptions to the ban on hearsay. Some of them include:

  • Excited utterances: Statements made when the speaker was excited, and therefore less likely to be lying, have been deemed reliable enough to skirt around the ban on hearsay
  • Present sense impressions: Statements made in the moment to describe a scene, while the speaker was watching it unfold, tend to be reliable enough to be included in a trial
  • Statements against the speaker's interest: When the statement ran against the speaker's interest to such an extent that they would not have said it had they not thought it to be true

These are just some of the most common ways for hearsay to still get into a courtroom and used as evidence in a criminal trial.

Some Hearings Are Not as Strict as Criminal Trials

Those exceptions for hearsay, however, only apply to hearings and official proceedings that ban hearsay. Not all do, though, and congressional impeachment hearings are among them.

For example, while criminal trials put a tight lid on hearsay evidence and try to keep unreliable hearsay from getting into the courtroom, divorce mediations and even small claims court trials let hearsay in without a second thought. In some of these cases, it is because an experienced judge is hearing the evidence, rather than a jury that is likely to be swayed by unreliable evidence. In others, less is at stake so banning hearsay would eliminate lots of evidence and could bog down the proceedings in technicalities.

Joseph D. Lento: Criminal Defense in Philadelphia

Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia who uses the rules of hearsay to help clients defend against a criminal allegation. Contact him online or call his law office at (215) 535-5353.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience fighting for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, as well as New Jersey. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being.

Comments

There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Contact Us Today!

Footer 2

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations – the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Berks, Lancaster, Lehigh, and Northampton County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.

Menu