The concept of hearsay is extremely easy if you understand it and extremely difficult if you do not.
We cover it in a lot more detail in our book, The Guerrilla Guide to Trial Objections, but we still wanted to present a brief description here.
While each state, with the exception of Virginia, has its own Rules of Evidence most of them are based on the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE) and the ones dealing with Hearsay are Rules 801-807.
The technical definition of hearsay is:
"An out of court statement, offered in court, to prove the truth of the matter asserted."
As you can see there are three basic requirements for something to be considered hearsay. However, the tricky part comes about because of the numerous exceptions outlined in the Rules of Evidence as well as the even trickier situation when the Rules of Evidence declare that something is "not hearsay" even though it clearly meets the three requirements.
- A statement that was not made during a court proceeding (and under oath);
- That is now being offered in a court proceeding; and
- The purpose of being offered is to prove that whatever was said in the statement is true.
Since we try to keep things brief here, I'm not going to provide a lot of examples but if you run an online search hundreds will pop up.
Also, look carefully at the exceptions listed in the rules. A thorough understanding of not only what the rules say but also the reasons for the rules and the concepts behind them are extremely important. Many lawyers, and many judges as well, don't understand the rules so a party who has a thorough understanding of them will be well ahead of the game in court.