Understanding What Hearsay Means in Court

You might have heard the term “hearsay,” but it might not have been the actual legal definition. It’s important to understand that if you are going to court, there may be times when something you or someone else said can be repeated. An experienced criminal attorney in Indianapolis can protect your interests and raise objections when inadmissible testimony is offered. 

What Is Hearsay?

Hearsay is a statement made out of court that is presented for the truth of the matter asserted. “Statement” can mean something spoken or written. The purpose of hearsay is to prove that the out-of-court statement is true. If it is not used for this reason, it is not considered hearsay. 

What Is the Hearsay Rule? 

The hearsay rule says that hearsay is not admissible unless the rules of evidence or another law provides otherwise. If an out-of-court statement is not hearsay, it might be able to be introduced. 

The purpose of the hearsay rule is not to introduce unreliable evidence into a case. Hearsay involves repeating something that someone else said. However, repeating things can often wind up like a game of telephone in which the original statement varies dramatically from the final statement after several people have repeated it. 

An example of hearsay would be if a witness reports that Sarah, the neighbor, said she saw John selling drugs in the alley behind his house last week. This statement is considered hearsay because the witness is not testifying about their own direct observations but is instead relaying what Sarah allegedly said. Since Sarah is not present in court to testify and be cross-examined, the statement is not considered reliable direct evidence.

Note that if your case is similar to this scenario, you may have been subjected to hearsay. Contact our drug crime attorney in Indianapolis to learn more about your case.

Exceptions to the Hearsay Rule

Indiana has 23 stated exceptions to the hearsay rule in the Rules of Evidence. These exceptions generally find that the statement is more reliable because of the time or circumstances surrounding when the statement was made. If the statement falls within one of these narrow exceptions, the lawyer may be able to introduce the statement in court. 

Some of the most common exceptions to the hearsay rule include:

  • Statements against interest – These are statements that are against the interest of the declarant, such as admitting to a crime. 
  • Dying declarations – These are statements that people make when death is upon them. 
  • Excited utterances – Excited utterances are statements the declarant makes when excited or startled.
  • Statements made for medical treatment – If the declarant made a particular statement so that they could receive medical treatment or a medical diagnosis, it falls within this exception. 
  • Present sense impressions – These are statements the declarant made contemporaneously when an event was happening regarding the event.
  • Business records – Records kept within the regular course of business may fall within this exception if they meet certain criteria. 
  • Other records – Various other records, including vital statistics records, public records, records kept by religious organizations, family records, and land records, may be admitted as an exception to the hearsay rule. 

Statements by witnesses who are unavailable for court can sometimes also be admitted to court, but there are special rules concerning when such testimony is admissible. 

Contact The Criminal Defense Team for a Free, No-Obligation Consultation 

The introduction of hearsay evidence can be damaging – or extremely beneficial – to your case. It is crucial that your criminal defense attorney have a robust understanding of this legal rule, the exceptions, and the possible objections to make. The Criminal Defense Team has four out of the five board-certified criminal trial specialists in the state. We have the knowledge and skill to evaluate hearsay issues. Learn more about how we can help when you call (317) 678-9853 to arrange your free consultation.