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Objection, Your Honor! Hearsay.

Generally speaking, criminal trials have extremely strict rules regarding what evidence can and cannot be utilized in court in order to demonstrate a person’s guilt. These rules are intended to systematize the legal process and ensure everyone has an equal entitlement to a fair trial. They are intended to protect defendants from having evidence twisted and presented in a manner that portrays them as guilty, even when that is not the case.
In most cases, the idea is to prevent the presentation of evidence with questionable reliability or that is easy to falsify, which is why there are laws against the inclusion of “hearsay.”
In layman’s terms, hearsay can be defined as “he said, she said.” To add a bit more legalese and accuracy, it is any statements that were made outside the courtroom which assert the truth or falsehood of a matter which is being asserted in court. Additionally, the concept of “statements made outside the courtroom” extends not only to verbal statements, but also written statements and other means of communication.
It sounds a bit complicated, but hearsay is actually a pretty simplistic concept. For example, a witness to a car accident could not testify that one of the drivers told him or her that they caused the wreck if they are testifying in a trial to prove whether that person is liable for the accident. They could of course testify that they witnessed the driver texting while driving, which could serve as proof that that person caused the wreck, but to claim that that person said he or she caused the wreck would be inadmissible as hearsay.
However, the complexity of hearsay occurs in the fact that there are numerous exceptions to the rule. Federal law recognizes 24 exceptions to the hearsay rule, while South Carolina law recognizes 23. Some of these include “excited utterances,” “recorded recollections,” and “public records.”
For example, if an individual made a statement as an immediate result of an exciting or startling event, and another person heard that statement, the second person could testify to what was said and it would not be regarded as hearsay, but rather as an excited utterance. Or, if you witnessed an incident and immediately wrote down what you saw, this statement that was written outside of court may still be used since it was recorded while the memory was fresh in the witnesses mind. Similarly, a public record is another statement that was written outside of court, but whose admission as evidence is allowable as an exception to hearsay.
As you can imagine, with so many exceptions the hearsay rule can become rather complex and contentious. It takes a skilled defense attorney to properly leverage hearsay protection in your favor as a defendant, so if you are ever charged with a crime, be sure to contact the Greg McCollum Complete Legal Defense Team right away!

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