This concept of hearsay is an interesting one. People through it around all the time, but unless you went to law school and understand what hearsay is and how it works, you're probably not using it the right way. Hearsay typically has to do in a criminal case in LA with a witness being on the stand and one party – whether the prosecution or the defense – trying to get in a statement that was made outside of court. In other words, somebody may say something during a crime and one of the parties – the prosecution or the defense – want to get that statement in – if you're at a preliminary hearing and some sort of a motion hearing or a trial – but if that statement was made out of court, then there's an argument that it's hearsay.
There's a lot of exceptions to the hearsay rule as it relates to evidence and presenting evidence. For example, if somebody makes what's called an excited utterance – let's say they say, oh my God, he's going to shoot him. Bill's going to shoot him. That statement normally would be hearsay, but because it was said close in time to the crime and it was said under such circumstances – the person was under stress, excitement – whoever wants to try to get that statement in would tell the judge, I believe this is an excited utterance Your Honor. I believe that's an exception to the hearsay rule in Los Angeles and the statement should come in.
Now, let's say the person that made that statement came in and said yeah, I saw Bill shoot and when I saw him shoot, I yelled out, oh my God, Bill's going to kill somebody. The person was there. They're on the witness stand. They're subject to cross-examination by the other party, so all that's coming in. The problem with hearsay and when it's blocked from coming in has to do with the other side not having the ability to question that witness about that statement. How can you challenge a statement if it was made outside court and the person wasn't there?
Another thing that I see coming up regarding hearsay in criminal cases in Los Angeles is what's called Proposition 115. This Proposition allows for convenience of witnesses of police if they're properly qualified to be able to testify to hearsay statements related to witnesses, or even other police officers. Now, Proposition 115 can only be used at the preliminary hearing. So, let's say for example in a domestic violence case, they didn't want to call the wife in to testify against the husband. The police testified what the wife told them and then that can come in. A hearsay objection would be blocked because the testimony would come in pursuant to Prop 1115.
Let's take that same scenario and fast-forward ahead after the preliminary hearing and now they can't find the wife. The question becomes, if you can't find the wife, you're not going to be able to get her statement in, could they get the statement in from the preliminary hearing. The answer is no, because the wife didn't testify and the wife was not subject to cross-examination, so this testimony is not going to come in. That's why in domestic violence cases and other serious cases, a lot of times the prosecutors don't like doing Prop 115 prelims because they may expose themselves to possibly not being able to get a witness there at the trial and having to dismiss the case all together.
So, this concept of hearsay comes up all the times. Not only are there exceptions to it, but there are other angles that can be used in order to get statements in. Sometimes statements can come in for a non-hearsay purpose – meaning it's not coming in for the truth of whatever is said – it's coming in for some other purpose – like to impeach somebody. That would be a perfect example. If somebody said something different and now you have a hearsay statement and you can impeachment them with that statement, then that would be a very effective form of impeachment and it would also get around the hearsay rule.
So, being a skilled criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles, you've got to know how to deal with hearsay – how to block the prosecutors from getting hearsay statements in against your client, and how to get statements in that you want in and get around the hearsay rule, of course in an ethical and professional strategic manner, and only the best criminal defense attorneys can do this. When you're looking for a criminal defense attorney make sure you find one that has this ability because you never know what direction a criminal case will turn in Los Angeles, and your attorney has to have all the tools and weapons necessary to properly defend you.