Hearsay – Definition

Cite this article as:"Hearsay – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated September 30, 2019, last accessed October 25, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/lesson/hearsay-definition/.

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Hearsay Definition

Hearsay is “an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted therein.” Hearsay testimony occurs when one person testifies about what another person said. The creation of hearsay rule came into place to help prevent individuals from unfair convictions using gossips. Hearsay evidence is inadmissible in some courts except where Hearsay Rule applies.

A Little More on What is is Hearsay

Note that there is no evidence exclusion when it comes to the hearsay rule, especially when the evidence is an operative fact. Also, when it comes to the language of commercial offer and admissibility, hearsay may have an exception of admissibility. The reason is that there is an independent legal significance in each statement.

Hearsay Example

For instance, to prove that Rose was in the hospital, the attorney will ask a witness, “what did John tell you about Rose being in the hospital?” Note that the answer of the witness will rely on the statement that John made. So, if John isn’t present in court for cross-examination, then the answer of the witness is treated as hearsay.

The justification of the objection is that the person who made the statement is not in court to confirm it. If the attorney’s question has the intention of proving the truth about Rose being in the hospital, then the answer is not acceptable. However, if the question is for finding out if John actually made the statement, then the answer may be accepted in court.

It is worth noting that those jurisdictions that don’t permit hearsay evidence in courts do allow its extensive use in non-judicial hearings.

About Double Hearsay

Double hearsay refers to a hearsay statement that has another hearsay statement in it. For instance, let’s assume that a witness wants to give a testimony that “a statement from a very reliable person confirms that Wools-Sampson told her.”

Note that both the statements of Wools-Sampson and the very reliable person are hearsay submissions when it comes to the witness. The second hearsay (Wools-Sampson’s statement) is highly dependent on the first hearsay (the very reliable person’s statement).

Both hearsays must be considered separately admissible in a court of law. The reason is that the first hearsay’s source is anonymous and for the anonymous statement to be acceptable, depends on the liberation of the extra-legal burden of proof.

What are some of the Common Hearsay Exceptions?

In the federal rules, there are twenty-three exceptions that allow hearsay statements as valid evidence. Nonetheless, only a few are frequently apply. The following exceptions are the most common:

When explaining a situation and was stated immediately after or during the event.

Uttering while a person is in excitement mood (excited utterance) is one of the exceptions. However, for this exception to apply, the requirements are that the startling even must- have existed. Also, the declarant must have made the statement while under the exciting event.

Making a statement to show the state of mind and not to offer the truth; if this is the case, it becomes an exception to the hearsay rule. For example, let’s assume that there is testimony regarding a heated argument. Such testimony may show that there was anger and not what is in the statement.

When a Declarant is Unavailable to give a Testimony in Court

There are also other exceptions to the hearsay rule, which are applicable in a situation where the declarant is not available for cross-examination. The situation may include:

  • If by law the court declares that the declarant testimony is not necessary
  • If the declarant decides not to testify
  • If the declarant has forgotten the unfolding of the events
  • If the declarant happens to be dead or suffer a mental illness that incapacitates him or her to testify in court.
  • If the declarant is missing in court and his or her whereabouts are unknown.

References for “Hearsay






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