Tampa Evidence

What is Hearsay?

Hearsay in a Tampa Divorce

In everyday life, there is a general understanding that secondhand information that cannot be verified by a witness is rarely a reliable source of truth.  The legal system operates under a simple presumption in criminal proceedings based on a concept known as hearsay evidence.

Defining Hearsay

Hearsay is a legal word used to describe information based on an out-of-court statement made by an individual other than the witness during the witness’s testimony in the courtroom. If a witness testifies by quoting somebody who is not present in court, it becomes impossible to verify or cross-examine the individual who made the statements. By extension, it becomes impossible to verify the statement’s credibility.

As a general rule, the lack of a firsthand witness will make hearsay inadmissible, meaning it cannot be used as evidence in the case. A simplified way of looking at hearsay generally is that a witness will not be able to use someone else’s statement as a fact unless that other individual can be brought to court to testify themselves.

In a legal context, this rule is commonly known as the Hearsay Rule. Like most general rules, however, there are exceptions and exemptions to the Hearsay Rule, which can lead to hearsay being treated as evidence.

The Hearsay Rule and Its Exceptions

If you are familiar with courtroom dramas on television or in film, you may already be familiar with the “excited utterance” exception. This exception to the Hearsay Rule is more accurately referred to as “res gestae” in an actual courtroom, meaning the hearsay statement was made “in the immediacy of things.”

Practically, “res gestae” means that a person who makes a statement immediately following a criminal act is unlikely to lie due to the overwhelming nature of the event. If hearsay meets the excited utterance/res gestae standard, it can be treated as evidence due to this exemption.

There are many other exceptions to the hearsay rule as well, according to Rule 803 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. While it is certainly true that hearsay is generally inadmissible, there are 30 exceptions in the Federal Rules of Evidence.

This leaves plenty of openings for an effective lawyer who has a nuanced understanding of the law to make use of one of these exceptions. When a critical statement that is categorized as hearsay can make or break a case, implementing these exceptions wherever possible is of paramount importance.

If you have any questions about hearsay and whether a given statement qualifies for a Hearsay Rule exception or exemption, contact The McKinney Law Group, your divorce lawyer Tampa, for a legal consultation.

If you have questions regarding custody and divorce, or are unaware as to the terms and conditions in, talk to, and retain, a Tampa family law attorney who can help. Contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group, your divorce lawyer Tampa, to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at [email protected]