Hearsay is a statement made by someone out of court, which is then used in court, to prove what was said in the statement.
For a more technical definition, see Rule 801(c) of the Maine Rules of Evidence, which says, “Hearsay means a statement that: (1) The declarant does not make while testifying at the current trial or hearing; and (2) A party offer in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement.”
Generally, hearsay is not allowed to be introduced into evidence pursuant to Rule 802 of the Maine Rules of Evidence. However, there are many exceptions to this rule. The exceptions can be found here in Rules 801(d), 803, and 804.
Courts prohibit hearsay because it is not sworn testimony under oath, and therefore doesn’t have the same reliability as in-court testimony. Additionally, there is no way for the opposing party to confront (cross-examine) the declarant and assess the truthfulness of the out of court statement.
Lawyers are trained to spot and object to hearsay before it’s introduced during the trial. Similarly, lawyers are trained to recognize when exceptions to the rules against hearsay may apply. It is extremely difficult, and takes years of practice to master this skill. Keeping certain evidence out of your trial is equally important as getting certain evidence in.
Disclaimer: This article is intended to provide general information about Maine law. The publication of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.