Here’s how you can be sure the evidence you give will be admissible in court.
The unfortunate truth about our world today is that, a lot of the time, our ability to seek justice only comes down to our ability to make a solid case for ourselves. It is a lot more complicated than merely distinguishing right from wrong. Making a strong case for ourselves relies on one key ingredient: evidence. We can’t get very far in court without it. But how can you be sure that the evidence you are gathering and presenting is good evidence that will actually help defend you?
You need to make sure you have evidence that can’t be ruled as “hearsay”
Presenting poorly compiled or unusable evidence isn’t just something that won’t progress your case; it could actually damage your ability to present a strong case, and could therefore inhibit your ability to win, even if you are in the right. It is important to make sure you have strong evidence compiled with the appropriate documentation, and it is also important to make sure that the evidence you are presenting is more than simply hearsay.
What is hearsay?
When you or someone else is called to the stand as a witness in court, the evidence you give needs to be first-hand. In other words, a witness can testify only what he or she has personally seen, heard, done, or said. There are a few exceptions to this rule, like expert witnesses and well-documented quotes (sometimes allowed), but for the most part, if you didn’t hear it, see it, do it, or say it yourself, then you need the witness who did to come to the stand to testify for that information to count as solid evidence.
Why is avoiding hearsay so important?
Providing strong evidence is important because the basic goal of a trial is to develop certainty, and that means minimizing the margin of error by weeding out the information that can’t be ruled as fact. Information that trickles down through multiple parties can easily be misheard or misinterpreted, and the fact that it can easily be discredited means it isn’t strong enough information to be ruled fact.
How can you make sure your evidence can’t be ruled as hearsay?
There are four types of communication failures that can happen with witness testimonies: 1) perception—an event isn’t perceived to have happened in the exact way it did; 2) memory—an event is misremembered or not remembered; 3) veracity—a witness is lying; 4) ambiguity—a witness is unclear in his or her relation of events. Hearsay presents only half the picture when it comes to the event that took place, and because of the incompleteness of the testimony, all of the aforementioned sensory input and output problems are doubled, leaving you with a potentially inaccurate testimony that may not be able to be substantiated, and thus may be deemed inadmissible.
The best way to ensure the witness testimony you are presenting is entirely accurate and credible is through cross examination of the witness, which can test possible input/output problems. There are, however, a few steps you can take before the trial to ensure the witness testimony you are providing or depending on can’t be ruled as hearsay:
Who is offering the evidence?
Make sure the individual offering the evidence is the witness who perceived the event, and make sure that person is able to appear in court.
What is the statement?
You are allowed to prepare your witness before the trial to go over what information they are going to give—and to remind them to only declare what they personally perceived so their entire testimony can’t be ruled un-credible.
For what purpose is the statement being offered?
It is important to determine the witness’s motivations to ensure they are only presenting the truth and don’t have personal affiliations that might damage the credibility of their statement.