Understanding Legal Challenges

Why Hearsay Isn'T Admissible In Criminal Court

You have probably heard that hearsay isn't admissible in court, which basically means that you can't use it as testimony in court. It may sound unfair, but there are perfectly good reasons for it. Here are a few reasons criminal courts don't allow hearsay as testimony in court:

It Is Not Reliable

One of the most important reasons hearsay is inadmissible is because it is inherently unreliable. Hearsay is, by definition, an out-of-court statement made by a witness who is not available in court. It basically means that the person providing hearsay testimony is not the person who witnessed (saw, heard, felt, smelt or tasted) the event.

This means that, at best, hearsay is a secondhand testimony. As you probably know, however, things get distorted when they are repeated by other people. Try describing something to a colleague and ask them to repeat it to another colleague; the third person isn't likely to hear exactly what you said. Therefore, the person providing hearsay testimony might not have heard the correct thing or they might have forgotten some of the details.

It Is Difficult To Get Further Details

Another problem with hearsay is that it's difficult to get further details or "read" the language of the actual witness. As you know, communication isn't just verbal; nonverbal cues such as nodding, smiling, shaking the head or gesturing are all part of communication. You can read the language of a witness to better grasp what they are saying if you are speaking directly to them. You can even ask them follow-up questions to get clarification on their testimony. Unfortunately, this isn't possible at all if you are listening to hearsay testimony; with hearsay, all you get is the verbal utterances made by the absent witness.

It Violates the Confrontation Clause

The Confrontation Clause of the 6th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution grants a criminal suspect the right to face and question their accuser. This means if a witness is making a claim against a defendant in a criminal court, then the criminal defendant has the right to question the witness. Obviously, this won't be possible if the actual witness is not in court, and the hearsay witness isn't the actual accuser, they are just repeating what they heard.

Just like other criminal laws, there are exceptions that allow hearsay to be admissible in court. Therefore, if there is some hearsay you think can help you win your case, don't dismiss it outright. Run the hearsay testimony by your lawyer to see if it fits in any of the multiple exceptions. Visit a site like http://wolfleylawoffice.com/ for more help.