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Washington Court Analyzes Exceptions to the Rule Against Hearsay

On Behalf of | Nov 25, 2019 | Assault

Under Washington criminal cases, hearsay evidence is inadmissible. In other words, the State cannot introduce evidence of an out of court statement made by another party, to show the truth of the matter of the statement. There are exceptions to the rule, though, that will render hearsay evidence admissible. For example, if a statement was made under certain conditions, it may fall under the excited utterance exception to the rule against hearsay, as demonstrated in a recent domestic violence case. If you are a Washington resident charged with a crime of domestic violence, it is wise to speak with a capable Washington domestic violence defense attorney regarding what evidence the State may introduce against you.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant and his victim were former romantic partners who decided to resume their relationship. In January 2018, the victim picked up the defendant, who appeared angry. The defendant proceeded to verbally and physically assault the victim while she was driving. The victim then drove her car into the parking lot of a casino, where she hoped to drop the defendant off. The victim noticed a police officer patrolling the lot and drove her car directly at him, yelling that the defendant had just assaulted her.

Reportedly, the officer ordered the defendant out of the car and questioned the victim, who stated that the defendant told her he wanted to kill her, and she was in imminent fear for her life. The officer noticed redness around the victim’s neck as well. The defendant was charged with three crimes of domestic violence, including second-degree assault. The case proceeded to trial, during which the officer testified regarding the victim’s statements prior to the defendant’s arrest. The defendant was found guilty, after which he appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the victim’s statements to be admitted under the excited utterance exception of the rule against hearsay.

Excited Utterance Exception to the Rule Against Hearsay

Under Washington law, any statement made by a person other than the witness who is testifying is hearsay if it is offered to prove the truth of the statement. Hearsay testimony is inadmissible unless it falls under one of the exceptions. For example, excited utterances, which are statements that relate to a shocking event or condition and are made while the person speaking is under the stress of the event or condition, are admissible. For hearsay to be admissible under the excited utterance exception, the party seeking to introduce the statement must show the shocking condition or event, the statement was made while the person was under the stress of the condition or event, and that the statement related to the condition or event.

In the subject case, the defendant argued that the victim’s statements were not spontaneous and were not made while she was under the stress of the event. The court disagreed, finding that the stress of the event was ongoing, and there was sufficient evidence that the victim was still in shock and the time she made the statements. As such, the court affirmed the defendant’s convictions.

Speak with a Knowledgeable Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a domestic violence offense in Washington, it is prudent to speak with a knowledgeable Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss your case and what you steps you can take to protect your rights. The seasoned attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White will work diligently to help you seek the most favorable outcome available under the facts of your case. We can be reached via our online form or at 253-363-8662 to schedule a meeting.