Hearsay is testimony of a witness as to an out-of-court statement made by a different person that is being introduced for the truth of the matter asserted. The person who made the out-of-court statement is called the “declarant.” Under the rules of evidence of the federal system and of all states, hearsay is excluded from most court proceedings. It is, however, often allowed in other matters, such as a proceeding seeking a search warrant.
The federal rules of evidence list well over a dozen exceptions to the hearsay rule. Generally, these exceptions allow hearsay when there are indications from the circumstances that the declarant’s statement is reliable or where the statement is recorded in official books and records in a manner that makes them unlikely to be fabrications.
In criminal cases, hearsay testimony against the defendant may violate the defendant’s right to “confront” his accuser under the sixth amendment to the Constitution since the declarant’s statements are being used against the defendant without the defendant being afforded the opportunity to confront and cross-examine the declarant.