What Is Hearsay Evidence?

Evidence in the form of witness testimony can be extremely vital to the outcome of a trial. A witness is required to give first-hand evidence about the facts of the case and not what they may have heard from someone else. 

What Is Hearsay Evidence?

Hearsay evidence is an out-of-court statement that can be substantiated. It can be a written or oral statement. An out-of-court statement in a legal context is something someone tells the witness through any means of communication. For instance, if someone testifies about something they did not witness but heard from another person, it would be hearsay. 

The hearsay rule was designed to ensure that cross-examination remains effective in court and gossip or rumor cannot be used to convict anyone. Even though hearsay is allowed in court under some circumstances, it is unreliable as evidence.  

Hearsay is only admissible as supporting evidence when there is other proof that the individual has said the same thing the witness claim they said. The court could refuse hearsay evidence based on a few factors. For instance, if the person makes that statement in court, the witness is testifying hearsay, but their body language says otherwise, the witness is not telling the truth, etc. 

Significance of Hearsay Evidence 

Generally, hearsay evidence is inadmissible in U.S. courts unless it follows the exceptions contained in the Federal Rules of Evidence. There are approximately thirty exceptions to providing hearsay as evidence in U.S. courts. The recognition of exceptions varies from one state to another. Some states allow hearsay to be submitted as evidence in courts, while others declare it as completely inadmissible. 

If one party tries to offer hearsay evidence in court, the other party holds the right to object to the evidence and request the court to refuse. However, if one of the exceptions of FRE (Federal Rules of Evidence) applies, the court may find the hearsay evidence admissible. Any statement or evidence that proves the truth of the matter stated in court can be admissible as hearsay. Hearsay evidence could prove the motive or intent of the accuser if one of the FRE exceptions applies to it. 

Hearsay Exceptions

The following are the most common hearsay exceptions in U.S. courts:

  • If the hearsay statement was made during or immediately after the event, it could be allowed under the “present sense impression” exception. 
  • If the hearsay statement is made during the stress or excitement of an event, it falls under the “excited utterance” exception and can be allowed in court. 
  • Another exception to the rule against hearsay evidence is a statement that describes an individual's physical condition, state of mind, or emotional state. 
  • Medical statements that are made to any healthcare provider can be admissible as hearsay evidence in court. 
  • Reputation statements or documents that include government or business records can be offered as hearsay evidence from either party in court. 
  • Hearsay is allowed in U.S courts if it may help the court give a fair judgment. 
  • If the other party has been notified of hearsay evidence being offered in court beforehand, it can count as an exception.