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What Are the Exceptions to Barring Hearsay in Court?

Posted on in Criminal Law

What Are the Exceptions to Barring Hearsay in Court?When determining a matter as important as whether someone is guilty of a crime, the court needs to have confidence that the evidence is reliable. That is why courts mostly reject the admission of hearsay in a criminal case. Hearsay is testimony in court that is based on a statement from someone who is not appearing in court. Courts often consider hearsay unreliable because the person who is testifying does not have first-hand knowledge of the information and the source of the statement is not available to be cross-examined. Without viewing testimony from the hearsay source, the jury cannot get a sense of whether the source is reliable. However, the Illinois Rules of Evidence have several exceptions that allow for the admission of hearsay evidence. The exceptions fall under two categories:

  1. The Availability of the Declarant Is Immaterial: This means that the hearsay source’s testimony in court is not necessary to establish the information as reliable. For instance, a person is considered unlikely to have lied if they said something that would incriminate themselves or go against their self-interest. The source’s state of mind may also be relevant. A person may speak impulsively when they are excited, which means they may not have had time to consider lying. Finally, hearsay based on a matter of public record is considered reliable because the information can be verified.
  2. The Declarant Is Unavailable: The hearsay source may be unable to testify because they are dead, ill or suffering memory loss. Others may be exempted from having to testify, such as the alleged victim in a child abuse case. Just because a source is unable to testify does not mean that the court has to allow the hearsay as evidence. Statements from a previous trial may be allowed if the defendant had a chance to cross-examine the declarant at that trial. Courts will consider dying declarations, which are statements from someone who is deceased that were made when they knew they were dying. The court may also allow hearsay evidence from an unavailable witness if it believes the defendant committed wronging against the defendant with the intent to prevent testimony.

Contact a Crystal Lake, Illinois, Criminal Defense Attorney

A judge in a criminal case may have the discretion to decide whether testimony is hearsay and, if so, whether that hearsay falls under the exceptions. A McHenry County criminal defense lawyer at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, will contest unreliable or hearsay evidence presented by the prosecution in your case. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.

Source:

http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/SupremeCourt/Evidence/Evidence.htm#Article_VIII

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