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Hearsay Exception Gives Voice to the Voiceless

Posted by Josh Valentine | Dec 04, 2017 | 0 Comments

Domestic violence cases can be incredibly complex. Dismissal rates are staggering, as people who are involved in disputes with intimate partners and/or family members are often uncooperative (due to various, intricate aspects of domestic violence) or are bound by spousal privilege laws.

Although much work needs to be done in terms of increasing cooperativeness in these cases, like denouncing victim blaming rhetoric in social settings, for example, prosecutors are doing all they can to convict batterers in today's evidential condition. One method of successfully doing so is commonly exercising hearsay exceptions in domestic violence cases.

The Complexities of Domestic Violence and Hearsay

Hearsay is an out-of-court statement that is made other than the witness that is reporting it. It is banned in most criminal cases to prevent juries from considering secondhand information that cannot be subject to cross-examination - therefore, it is deemed unreliable.

Victims in domestic violence cases tend to either fail to show up in court to testify against their abuser, or renounce their testimony altogether. These actions leave prosecutors with no choice but to use statements outside the confines of court that meet hearsay exceptions to constitute as evidence. While these exceptions are admissible in court, they are severely limited.

Admissible Hearsay

Prosecutors are only permitted to utilize hearsay exceptions for statements made to garner evidence for prosecution. These exceptions include:

Statements made for medical treatment and diagnosis

If a victim seeks medical treatment as a result of physical or emotional abuse from their abuser, and makes a statement about the nature of the abuse, it could be used in a criminal trial as evidence. The information in this statement is considered reliable if it assists medical professionals in recommending potential treatment for an injury.

Excited utterances

Out-of-court statements that are made while a victim is under stress are considered admissible in court. These types of statements are deemed reliable because a victim does not have time to fabricate a testimony once an immediate outburst is declared. Although this is a pretty useful exception for prosecutors, it rarely happens in domestic violence cases. Domestic violence is oftentimes a pattern of behavior for batterers, which means that it rarely occurs within a single setting. Therefore, victims may not always react hysterically to most instances of continuable abuse.

Present tense impressions

Statements that are made immediately after an incident occurred or was perceived are considered reliable in domestic violence cases. This is because there is a decreased likelihood of a victim deliberately trying to misrepresent or outright falsify an account of events immediately after it occurs. Statements made to 911 operators while the abuse is ensuing or after an accident are often used as evidence through the utilization of this hearsay exception.

Domestic violence and child abuse remain prominent issues in North Carolina. Hearsay exceptions are essential for evidence-based convictions of batterers in state courtrooms.

About the Author

Josh Valentine

All through my life, I have personally witnessed family members and very close friends endure divorce, child custody battles, bankruptcy, civil lawsuits and even fraudulent criminal accusations. I both saw and experienced the stress such events can place on an individual, and I realized that everyone, at some point in their life, needs hope, comfort, and encouragement. In each one of those situations, the person that was best situated to provide that vital support was their lawyer.  So that's why I became an attorney.  I understand what you are going through—and I'm here to help you.  Our office is focused on meeting your needs and guiding you through what may be the most difficult time of your life. Before attending law school, I worked for a law firm focused on record clearing services, including expungements, pardons, and motions for appropriate relief.  The vast experience and understanding of North Carolina's expungement laws that I have acquired has given me an advantage in defending criminal charges, because not only do I fight for the best possible outcome in your case, but I am also continually conscious of the long term effects that a criminal charge or conviction can have on a person's life.  As such, I will do whatever I can to insure that my clients will not end up with a criminal record.  I was born in New London, Connecticut, but spent the first few years of my life in Dallas, Texas, before moving to Rutherfordton, North Carolina in 2001.  Upon graduating from high school, I attended Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, where I majored in Accounting.  Eager to finish school, I began law school at Charlotte School of Law the day of my graduation from GWU, and completed my law degree in two years (instead of the typical three). During law school, I studied hard and strived to acquire the most experience possible so that I would be practice ready upon graduation.  The opportunities I gained included prosecuting criminal defendants through an externship with the Burke County District Attorney's Office, defending criminal defendants through Charlotte School of Law's Criminal Justice Clinic, and interning with Farmer & Morris, PLLC. I am blessed with a beautiful wife, Gabrielle Valentine, who is an attorney at Farmer & Morris, PLLC, in Rutherfordton, North Carolina.  In my free time, I enjoy helping with the youth group in my church, playing basketball and softball in our local church leagues, serving in the prison ministry, and spending time with my family.  Education: Charlotte School of Law J.D., Magna Cum Laude Class Rank – 21 of 328 Associate Editor of Charlotte School of Law Law Review Certification and Concentration in Employment Law Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society Order of the Crown Pro Bono Honors CALI Awards (Highest Grade)—Lawyering Process I and Contracts I Full Scholarship Gardner-Webb University B.S. in Accounting, Summa Cum Laude Distinguished Senior Student Award – Highest GPA Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honorary Society Bar Admissions: North Carolina State Bar


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