There are Times When Hearsay is Allowed

Posted by Joseph D. Lento | Jan 14, 2023 | 0 Comments

If you've watched many courtroom movies or TV shows, you've probably seen an indignant lawyer stand up and yell, "Objection! Hearsay!" dozens of times. But what actually is hearsay?

What is "Hearsay" Evidence?

Criminal trials follow strict procedural rules, including rules that determine what evidence can be considered and what evidence should be disregarded. One of the most complex rules is the so-called "hearsay rule."

A hearsay is a statement that is made to prove the truth of the matter in question and is made by someone who is not testifying as a witness during the trial. The main purpose of the hearsay rule is to preserve the accused's right to confront their accuser.

An example of hearsay is a witness who says, "Sam told me [the accused] committed the crime." If Sam is not in the courtroom, he can't be cross-examined, so the statement can't be admitted as evidence of the accused's guilt.

If, for example, someone testifies that another person told them that the accused had committed the crime in question – whether it's a violent or non-violent crime – that testimony would be hearsay.

What Does Pennsylvania Law Say About Hearsay?

Generally speaking, Pennsylvania law does not allow hearsay evidence to be admitted in court. Pa.R.E. 802 sets out that hearsay evidence can only be admitted under certain circumstances.

Some of those circumstances are an excited utterance; hearsay within hearsay; attacking and supporting the declarant, and during preliminary hearings.

An excited utterance is when a person makes a statement a split second after something exciting happens. This is an exception to the hearsay rule because, presumably, the person has not had time to plot and plan out a statement that isn't true.

An example of hearsay within hearsay is when a witness quotes an official report, like a police report, and the report cites a statement from another witness.

Attacking and supporting the declarant means that you can attack the declarant's (aka, the witness's) credibility, and then the other side can offer proof that supports the declarant's credibility.

Preliminary Hearings

For several years, one of those exceptions was during a pre-trial court appearance called a preliminary hearing. This is when a judge decides if the criminal case should move forward. However, in 2020 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned a 2015 ruling that previously allowed prosecutors to build a case around hearsay evidence during the preliminary hearing. The 2020 decision means that, while hearsay evidence is still admissible during the preliminary hearing, it cannot serve as the basis for the prosecutor's case.

This change means that preliminary hearings are once again a critical step in defending yourself against these accusations. You have the opportunity during a preliminary hearing to show the judge that the evidence against you is lacking. It's important that you take advantage of this opportunity, as it can greatly influence the outcome of your case.

LLF's Criminal Law Team can help you take advantage of your preliminary hearing and help you up for the best possible outcome. Call 888-535-3686 today to learn how they can help you.

About the Author

Joseph D. Lento

"I pride myself on having heart and driving hard to get results!" Attorney Joseph D. Lento passionately fights for the futures of his clients in criminal courtrooms in Philadelphia and across Pennsylvania as well as in New Jersey and nationwide. He does not settle for the easiest outcome, and instead prioritizes his clients' needs and well-being. With unparalleled experience occupying several roles in the criminal justice system outside of being an attorney, Joseph D. Lento can give you valuable behind-the-scenes insight as to what is happening during all phases of the legal process. Joseph D. Lento is licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, and is admitted pro hac vice as needed nationwide. In the courtroom and in life, attorney Joseph D. Lento stands up when the bell rings!


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