“Hearsay, your Honor!”
With all of the legal movies and television shows, we have all seen during a trial while one lawyer is asking the witness questions, the other lawyer interrupt with, “Objection! That is hearsay, your Honor.” But what is hearsay? On its face, most understand that hearsay is merely an unproven rumor. This is basically true, but unfortunately the United States legal system makes it incredibly complicated. Who’d have figured, right? Under the Federal Rules of Evidence, which is mirrored by most state laws, the definition of hearsay is: an out-of-court (made somewhere other than during current trial) statement (spoken word, written text, or an intended physical gesture) made by the declarant (person who first asserted the statement) to prove the truth of the evidence (whether what was said is true) being offered by the witness.
Generally, the rule is that hearsay is not allowed to come in as evidence during a trial because it doesn’t allow the opposing lawyer to cross-examine the person who originally made the statement. That, in itself, is a pretty simple concept that most could agree upon. However, over the years, the courts have developed dozens of exceptions that allow hearsay in as evidence at a trial even though the statement cannot be cross-examined. This is the point in the Law & Order episode where a hearsay objection is made by the opposing lawyer, the other lawyer explains that… <ridiculous exception>, and the judge overrules the objection because of the ridiculous exception and allows the testimony of this witness to be entered into evidence. Here is a list of only a small portion of possible exceptions to the hearsay rule:
- Present Sense Impression
- Excited Utterance
- Then-Existing Emotional Condition
- Medical Diagnosis
- Business Records
- Public Records
- Ancient Documents
- Former Testimony
- Statement Against Interests
- Imminent Death Declaration
- Family History
If you’re confused, don’t worry… most lawyers (and ALL law students) are clueless, as well. It is so infrequent that a case actually goes to trial (less than 1.3 percent according to the American Bar Association) that lawyers rarely get a chance to practice this area. And of the gazillion lawyers practicing law, a small percentage of them ever go to trial at all. It is of no coincidence that a lawyer that has his mind firmly wrapped around hearsay objections, has an enormous “leg up” on the competition. That is why it is so important to choose a well-proven trial lawyer before going into any legal battles that you may have. So, for example, if a friend tells you, “hey, you should really hire John Phillips as your attorney because he is a seasoned veteran in trial litigation,” that is NOT hearsay and you should probably pick up the phone and call immediately. Just sayin’.
We invite you to review our verdicts, our accolades and awards, what clients have to say about us and to give us a call for a free consultation. Our lawyers will sit down with you personally. John represents clients in Florida, Georgia and Alabama with passion and compassion and is a Board Certified Expert in Civil Trial Law according to the Florida Bar.
If injury or trouble finds you, call us at 904-444-4444 .