The Hearsay Rule and Its Exceptions


Whether watching court trials on the news, movies or popular television shows, we all have been exposed to some kind of court proceeding. Perhaps one of the most memorable events during a trial is when you see an attorney yell “objection!”, when opposing counsel is questioning a witness. While there are many objections an attorney can use in court, a fairly common one is hearsay. Hearsay is usually defined as: an out of court statement (not made under oath) introduced to prove the truth of the matter of the asserted, and is not admissible evidence in court. However, there are numerous exceptions to the rule of hearsay, some examples are: a statement made under impending death, an admission, a excited utterance, prior testimony, etc …

Hearsay can be written, oral, or even a gesture. Any piece of information that is intended to infer a fact is defined as hearsay. When an attorney objects on the grounds of hearsay, the main reason is to prevent any statements that are made outside of a courtroom from being used as evidence in court. Usually the witness is telling what has been said to them, and not what they know personally. However, hearsay evidence is excluded only in actual court trials, and is admissible in other judicial proceedings, such as a DMV Hearing or any other Administrative Hearing.

One exception to the hearsay rule is a statement that is made under the belief of an impending death or “Dying Declaration.” This means that if the statement in questions was made by a person who was dying, or believed to be dying, the statement is admissible in court. For example, if a person who had a malignant brain tumor made a statement prior to his impending death, what that person said would be allowed into evidence under the Dying Declaration exception of the Hearsay rule.

Just as hearsay can be admissible, there are certain circumstances when it is inadmissible: such as journals, word of mouth, rumors, etc … For example in the case of The People of California vs. Orenthal James Simpson (O.J Simpson), Nicole Brown Simpson’s journals were not able to be used in court as evidence because they contained her personal written words about events that occurred. Because the defense had no way of questioning Nicole Simpson about the writings in the journals, the journals were not allowed to be used as evidence. This is an example of evidence that is inadmissible under the hearsay rules.

In conclusion, hearsay is a common objection used by attorneys during trial. It is defined as second hand information that is introduced to prove the truth of the matter asserted. It does not only have to be by spoken words, but can also be documents, journals, gestures, etc … There are several exceptions to the rule of hearsay where evidence can be introduced in court.

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