Hearsay and How It Applies in Utah Court Cases

A lot of people use the term “hearsay” in everyday to life to attack a statement’s credibility.  Many believe that if a statement is hearsay it is automatically not reliable, and therefore, cannot be used as evidence to support a position.  There is only some truth in such a belief and in fact hearsay is used all the time in Utah court cases, but only if it satisfies certain basic reliability tests.  Before we discuss when hearsay can be used as evidence in a Utah court case, we need to first understand what is hearsay.

What is Hearsay?

The legal definition of hearsay is a statement the declarant does not make while testifying at the current trial or hearing and which a party offers in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement.  So basically any out of court statement used to prove the truth of what was said is hearsay.

Utah rules of evidence preclude the admissibility of hearsay unless the law provides otherwise.

What is not Hearsay?

There are two types of statements that Utah courts do not recognize as being hearsay and are therefore admissible.  First, a prior statement made by the witness who is testifying is not considered hearsay if it is inconsistent with what the witness is now saying.  Second, statements made by an opposing party is not considered hearsay.

What are the Exceptions to the Hearsay Rule?

Utah courts recognize many exceptions to the general hearsay rule.  The following statements are admissible as exceptions to the hearsay rule:

(1)   Present Sense Impression.
(2)   Excited Utterance.
(3)   Then-Existing Mental, Emotional, or Physical Condition.
(4)   Statement Made for Medical Diagnosis or Treatment.
(5)   Recorded Recollection.
(6)   Records of a Regularly Conducted Activity.
(7)   Absence of a Record of a Regularly Conducted Activity.
(8)   Public Records. A record or statement of a public office
(9)   Public Records of Vital Statistics.
(10) Absence of a Public Record.
(11) Records of Religious Organizations Concerning Personal or Family History.
(12) Certificates of Marriage, Baptism, and Similar Ceremonies.
(13) Family Records.
(14) Records of Documents That Affect an Interest in Property.
(15) Statements in Documents That Affect an Interest in Property.
(16) Statements in Ancient Documents.
(17) Market Reports and Similar Commercial Publications.
(18) Statements in Learned Treatises, Periodicals, or Pamphlets.
(19) Reputation Concerning Personal or Family History.
(20) Reputation Concerning Boundaries or General History.
(21) Reputation Concerning Character.
(22) Judgment of a Previous Conviction.
(23) Judgments Involving Personal, Family, or General History or a Boundary.

There are also exceptions that apply specifically when the declarant (the person making the statement) is unavailable.  There are four exceptions when the declarant is unavailable:

(1) Former testimony given by the declarant under oath.
(2) Statements made under a belief of imminent death.

(3)  Statements made by the declarant which went against the declarant’s own interest.

(4)  Statement of personal or family history.

All of the above exceptions are considered reliable, which is why the common law has allowed for such statements to be made admissible.

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