Excited Statements aka Excited Utterances -- Evidence – An exception to the Hearsay Rule

Courts have rules regarding what testimony is permissible evidence in court. One of the first requirements of a court involves whether or not the witness has personal knowledge of the facts about which the witness is going to testify. The evidence rules of hearsay are an effort to protect parties from testimony that was made by someone other than the in-court witness. So, if I am a witness, I cannot testify in court as to what you said to me out-of-court.

The main reason for the Hearsay Rule is to obtain reliable, truthful, and accurate testimony. The Hearsay Rule is to prevent testimony from being introduced when the purpose of that testimony is to establish the truth of an out-of-court factual statement which is considered by the Court to be unreliable. The exceptions to the Hearsay Rule are permitted when the out-of-court factual statements are considered by the Court as reliable and trustworthy.

The exceptions to the Hearsay Rule include an admission of guilt, a statement against interest, and present sense impressions. A few examples of these exceptions are: (1) in a criminal case, the defendant says he committed the crime, (2) in an automobile accident, the defendant admits that he or she was at fault, and (3) in a collection case, the defendant admits he or she owes the money. Again the purpose of the exceptions is to permit the witness to give testimony of out-of-court statements and to have those statements accepted as reliable, truthful and accurate.

“Excited Utterances” is one of the important exceptions to the Hearsay Rule. The reason for the excited utterance exception is that the out-of-court witness experienced an event that was startling to the point that the out-of- court witness’s thinking process was affected by the event. The out-of-court witness is unable to reflect about what occurred and so is responding with the least possibility of fabricating statements of the event. The excited utterance exception has two elements – one is the startling event itself and the other is the excited utterance. The excited utterance (the statement) must be a spontaneous response to the spectacular event. Was the out-of-court witness statement close in time to the event? The longer the time that has elapsed, the less likely it will be that the Court will permit the out-of-court witness statement’s introduction into the case as an exception to the Hearsay Rule. Did the out-of-court statement relate to the spectacular event? It must, if the exception to the Hearsay Rule is to apply.

In Maryland courts there are at least two cases that are good examples of the application of the excited utterance exception to the Hearsay Rule.

The first case involved a man convicted of assault and of theft of an automobile. In this case a police officer testified in court about what a victim had stated about the defendant. The victim’s statements made out of court were of what the defendant did and said to the victim. The statements of the victim were made in minutes of the assault. The officer said he went to the victim’s home and found that she was crying and that she had obvious injuries to her face and neck. The officer said that he was told by the victim that the injuries of the victim happened just minutes before the officer arrived. The victim further stated that the defendant had admitted he stole a vehicle. The appellate court stated that the statements of the assault met the requirements of the Hearsay Rule exception as an excited utterance but that for the theft of the vehicle the exception did not apply.

The second Maryland case involves an assault where the out-of-court witness also alleged that an assault took place and an officer who investigated the event wrote in his report that the out-of-court witness had told him about the assault on the victim by the defendant. In this case the appellate court did not have testimony about exactly when the assault took place. However, with the court records, which included other evidence, the Court was able to determine the time of the assault from a 911 call. Also, as the officers arrived, they obtained an ambulance that transported the victim to a hospital and the hospital record showed that the victim arrived at the hospital within ten minutes of the 911 call. Therefore, the Court permitted the application of the excited utterance exception to the Hearsay Rule.

Fred Antenberg has handled criminal cases for over thirty years in Howard County, Maryland, and surrounding Maryland counties.

Call Fred at 410-730-4404 for a free consultation.