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What is hearsay and how does it play into criminal defense?

When individuals faces allegations of criminal wrongdoing, they will likely have to make arguments in their own favor or they may be convicted without much effort from the prosecution. In order to craft compelling, persuasive and admissible legal arguments, a criminal defendant must know the rules of evidence. Perhaps one of important is the concept of hearsay.

Generally speaking, hearsay is a statement made outside of court, but testified to in court by another individual for the purposes of establishing truth. For example, if an individual testifies that his brother told him that the defendant committed the crime, then the brother’s statements will likely be deemed as hearsay if an objection is raised.

Why is it only “likely” to be considered hearsay? It is because hearsay, while generally disallowed in court proceedings, may be admissible under certain circumstances. In fact, there are about 30 exceptions to the rule. However, excited utterances, family records concerning family history, statements regarding the speaker’s present sense impression and the reputation of an individual’s character may all be admissible hearsay. It is worth noting that hearsay may also be available if the witness is unavailable, which could happen for a number of reasons.

Successfully objecting to hearsay and finding exceptions to get favorable hearsay admitted are key to a strong criminal defense. To those who are not used to the legal realm, this concept can be difficult to grasp. But by getting the right information, an individual accused of committing a criminal offense may be able to mount a competent criminal defense.

Source: FindLaw, “‘Hearsay’ Evidence,” accessed on May 20, 2016

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