Denver Colorado, Family Law Attorney Jeff Alter

Hearsay

Hearsay can be a difficult concept to grasp. In everyday life, saying what you heard is not only normal, but expected. So, why can't this be used in court as evidence? The reason (and there are entire law school courses covering the nuances involved) is that we can't very well examine the truth of some alleged fact when the person who supposedly stated the fact isn't here to talk about it. In a way, you can't have hearsay because there is no "here"say.

 

Let's take an example. Your neighbor Jane heard from her hairdresser Betty that Betty's cousin Joey said you hit your child. Well, if you're in court in a custody case and the main witness is Jane, how do you feel? The thing is, you can't really ask Jane about any of the details because she didn't witness anything about the alleged hitting. And that's the problem with hearsay - the person claiming or implying a fact is not the person who observed the fact.

 

In court, it's just not fair to admit hearsay evidence. You have no way of testing the credibility of Joey - How is his eyesight - What time of day did he see you - What else did he see at the time - Where was he standing or sitting when he saw you - Did he observe the child cry - How exactly did you hit the child - and on and on...

 

To make matters worse, this hearsay has a couple levels. How do we know Betty heard correctly - When did she hear Joey make the claim - Where were Joey and her when the claim was made - What condition was Joey in when he made the claim - and on and on...

 

Our legal system wants evidence to be reliable in court because it helps the judge or jury make better decisions. Statements made out of court, whether spoken or written are simply not usually allowed to be used in court to prove the the thing spoken or written about. The standard objection made to such testimony is "Objection your honor. The statement is inadmissible hearsay because it's an out of court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted". If the other side wants Joey's observation to be admitted into evidence, then Joey needs to come in and testify as to what he observed.

 

Now there are tons of exceptions and exemptions to hearsay, but hopefully now you have a better idea of what hearsay is.

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