Hearsay Exception Gives Voice to the Voiceless

Posted by Josh Valentine | Dec 04, 2017

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

You could say Josh has a God-given ability for sustaining long-term relationships. He and his wife first met in elementary school and went to Gardner Webb University (GWU) together, where they tied for number 1 in their class. Then, they both started law school on the same day of their graduation and got married during their first semester. He has also known his law partner Blake Caulder since Kindergarten. Theirs is the perfect partnership. “He’s the brake; I am the accelerator,” Josh says. Both Josh and his wife attended an innovative program at Charlotte Law School that allowed them to complete law school in two years instead of the typical three. His wife graduated and passed the North Carolina bar at age 20, becoming one of the youngest attorneys in the state. He readily admits she’s smarter than him. Of course, Josh went on to pass the North Carolina State Bar himself and later the South Carolina State Bar. While in school, he was Associate Editor of the Law Review and received accolades like Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society membership, Order of the Crown, Pro Bono Honors, CALI Awards (highest grade). In his career as a lawyer, he has been admitted to the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, is a member of the American Association of Premier DUI Attorneys, and completed training for DWI Detection & Standardized Field Sobriety Testing. Josh has also been named to the Top 40 Under 40 for Criminal Defense by The National Trial Lawyers, the Business North Carolina 2019 Legal Elite for Criminal Defense, and the 10 Best Attorneys for Client Satisfaction by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys three years in a row (2016, 2017, and 2018). Community involvement has been important to Josh all his life. In high school, he participated in building a Holocaust museum that has become internationally regarded. He and his wife are actively engaged in animal rescue, which currently means seven cats and two kittens. He served in prison ministry and assisted with fundraiser banquets there, and he provides pro bono and reduced fee legal services to those in need. As if all of that weren’t enough, Josh also mentors high risk youth and helps with his church’s youth group. He participates in other community volunteer projects involving construction, remodeling, drywall, painting, and landscaping. He’s an active student of the Bible and has traveled to Israel, Brazil, and Europe for mission work. No one can say Josh isn’t a well-rounded individual. In his spare time, he likes to play softball, basketball, and tennis, and he can play the piano and trombone. Sometimes on weekends, believe it or not, he enjoys pouring and finishing concrete with friends who own a concrete and grading business. In his law practice, Josh has made it a point to develop positive relationships with officers, clerks, and district attorneys, which has proven invaluable in delivering positive results for his clients. It’s important to him to both listen to his clients and fight for them. Law enforcement officers have important responsibilities to keep our communities safe and uphold the law, but one of the responsibilities of attorneys is to make sure officers do their job correctly. Josh considers it his job to hold them accountable for their actions. Josh is a person of deep faith. He knows that the established order of our universe and strength of America’s Judeo-Christian influenced court system is built on God’s word. His passion to serve each client with innovation, excellence and integrity is a byproduct of his faith. When asked why he became a lawyer, Josh says, “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 who 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.” 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