You have probably heard it raised as an objection in movies or television shows, “Objection! Hearsay, Your Honor.” But what is hearsay? What does that mean? Many people think of it as “he said, she said” evidence, which is partially correct. Hearsay in Massachusetts (and for that matter everywhere) means that someone said something to someone, but the information did not come directly from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.
Hearsay is a complicated evidence topic that even law students struggle with. Hopefully, the explanation below provide some insight on what hearsay is and how it is used in criminal defense cases.
What is Hearsay Evidence?
At its core, hearsay evidence is an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. It is a statement (i.e., an oral, written, or nonverbal assertion) that was made outside of the courtroom by someone (referred to as the declarant, as in the person who made the declarative statement), that is offered as proof of the truthfulness of the matter asserted in the statement.
An example of hearsay would be as follows: If Jake stands accused on drug charges, witness Angela cannot take the stand and say that she heard declarant Mike say that he (Mike) bought drugs from Jake. Angela’s statement would be hearsay.
Hearsay evidence is generally excluded as evidence in criminal cases because of the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which protects the rights of the accused to be able to cross-examine witnesses who offer evidence against them. The reason for this is that hearsay evidence is unreliable, and there is no way to cross examine the person who allegedly made the statement. In the above example, the judge or jury has no way of knowing if what Angela is saying she heard Mike say is true. Why not get that same information directly from Mike as a witness? The statement would be considerably more reliable if it came directly from Mike.
There are many statements that are hearsay which are considered not to be hearsay, or are considered to be admissible hearsay, and these exceptions are what makes the legal concept of hearsay so complicated to understand.
Statements That are Not Hearsay
Some statements that are he said, she said, are not considered to be hearsay. Rather, they are used to show a person’s state of mind at the time the statement was said (i.e., the person who made the statement was joking or had a grudge against someone, etc.), or to show that a witness is being inconsistent in his or her testimony.
Getting in Touch With a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney
The rules of evidence in criminal cases are complicated: some evidence is admissible, some is excluded. An experienced criminal defense lawyer will know which evidence should be allowed into court and which evidence is excludable. If you are facing criminal charges, you need to contact a criminal defense lawyer straightaway. Our Attorney has more than twenty five years of criminal law experience and she can help you fight the charges that are pending against you. Please do not hesitate to contact criminal defense Our Attorney either online .