What is hearsay?

While watching movies or shows depicting courtroom proceedings, you likely hear a lot of jargon that, while sounding technical (and thus legitimate), probably means little to you. Yet now that you are facing your own criminal trial in Wheeling, the meanings of those words and statements should now be of great interest to you. 

One such word is "hearsay," and it is often used in the context of challenging another's testimony. Hearsay is evidence (typically a statement) offered up against you despite the fact that the one who made the statement is unavailable to verify it. In most cases, hearsay evidence is not deemed admissible (and thus cannot be used against you). Per the Federal Rules of Evidence, however, there are exceptions to this rule. 

More often than not, the court will require that the one who offered hearsay evidence appear in order to verify it. However, the court recognizes there may be times when one is legitimately unavailable. These include when a potential witness is protected by privilege, is physically unfit to appear, cannot be located by evidence's proponent, or he or she simply refuses (even with a court order). 

If any of these aforementioned criteria are met, the court may indeed allow hearsay evidence in the following scenarios: 

  • It is derived from former testimony 
  • It arises from a statement made in fear of imminent death
  • It arises from a statement that is against the declarant's interest
  • It arises from a statement of personal or family history 
  • It arises from a statement made against a party that made the declarant unavailable to testify

Keep in mind that if hearsay evidence is permitted to be used against you, your representation can challenge the legitimacy credibility of the declarant despite his or her absence. 

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