How Can Hearsay Affect a Florida Criminal Case?
You have probably seen how hearsay works in courtroom dramas on TV or in movies; though what you saw was a fictional account, you have a general understanding of how the rule works. Under the Florida Evidence Code, hearsay is statement or conduct by a person meant as a form of communication. A witness who heard or observed the statement cannot repeat the information in a criminal courtroom, because hearsay is prohibited as evidence if it is offered to prove the truth of the subject.
From this basic definition, you might expect issues related to hearsay to be relatively clear-cut: If you said something to another person about your criminal activity, your statements cannot be introduced in court through that individual’s testimony. Unfortunately, the hearsay rule is much more complicated in practice. A Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney can advise you on how it applies to your case, but you might find it useful to review a summary of hearsay concepts.
Overview of Hearsay: To provide more detail on the above definition, hearsay is a statement made by someone to a witness; if that witness repeats the statement in court, offering the information for purposes of the truth of the contents, it is objectionable on the grounds of the hearsay rule. There are a few important points about the rule that you should note:
- Hearsay is ANY statement, including verbally spoken words, written assertions, and nonverbal conduct – such as a nod, shrug, or shaking the head.
- An attorney must object to hearsay while the witness is on the stand, or the judge may allow the witness testimony as evidence.
- The point of the hearsay rule is to make sure evidence is reliable. A person’s statements can be taken out of context, so the rule serves to eliminate information that is not considered trustworthy.
The Key is in the Exceptions to Hearsay: Beyond the basics of the rule, you should be aware of situations where hearsay WILL be allowed in court. Exceptions to the hearsay initially turn on whether the declarant – the person who made the statement – is available to testify in court. If the declarant is not available, his or her statements may be allowed as evidence if:
- The statements were made in former testimony before the court in another proceeding;
- The person made the statements because he or she thought death was imminent;
- The declarant made statements that were against his or her interests; and/or,
- The statements meet other criteria by Florida law.
Regardless of whether the declarant is available, hearsay WILL be allowed in court if the statements were spontaneous or uttered out of excitement. There are also exceptions for statements made in connection with written records.
Learn More by Consulting with a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of how hearsay works in a criminal case. However, you need more than an overview to leverage the relevant concepts when you are the one facing charges. For more information on evidence rules and how they can help or hinder your case, please contact Fort Lauderdale criminal attorney Kevin J. Kulik. We can schedule a consultation to review your circumstances and explore defense options.