Hearsay (Ro.: mărturie indirectă, Fr.: ouï-dire, n.m., Gr.: έμμεση απόδειξη, Cz.: nepřímý důkaz) (See also: common talk, indirect evidence, rumour, testimony) = an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of whatever it asserts. It is also referred to as second-hand information that a witness only heard about from someone else, and did not see or hear for himself/ herself.

A justification for the objection of hearsay is that the person who made the statement is not in court, and thus is insulated from cross examination. In general, the hearsay rule is motivated by a belief that hearsay is unreliable, as the person was not under oath. Most of the times, an out-of-court statement is hearsay if the parties care about whether or not the statement is true. 

In court, hearsay evidence is inadmissible, unless one of the many exceptions to this rule applies. For example, in the US alone, there are 24 exceptions in the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE) that do not require proof that the person who made the statement is unavailable. Many jurisdictions that generally disallow hearsay evidence in courts permit the more widespread use of hearsay in non-judicial hearings.

In Romania, hearsay is defined as witness accounts related to circumstances of any kind which the witness has not learned directly through his/her own senses, but only indirectly. In the Romanian judicial system hearsay has no probative value, although it can point the need to search for new evidence.


Useful links

Legislation - Federal Rules of Evidence, USA [English] - Evidence Act 1995, Australia [English] - Hearsay, Romania [Romanian] – California Evidence Code Section 1200-1205, USA [English] - Civil Evidence Act 1995, UK [English]

Organisations and associations - How does hearsay affect a trial?, American Psychological Association (USA) - The Hearsay Rule — First-hand and More Remote Hearsay Exceptions, Australian Government, Australian Law Reform Commission (Australia) - Blaskic case: Defence objection to the admission of hearsay is rejected, Press Release, UN ICTY - Grand Jury - Hearsay Evidence: Admissible Before a Grand Jury?, Law Library (USA) - Hearsay, The Crown Prosecution Service (UK)

Online Publications - Hearsay, Legal Information Institute - 'Hearsay' Evidence, FindLaw - Hearsay, The Lectric Law Library - Rozenberg, Joshua, 2011, Strasbourg's ruling on hearsay evidence could change its relationship with UK, The Guardian – Kler, Aiman Singh, 2013, A Critical Analysis of the Position of Hearsay Evidence in the ICC, Social Science Research Network - Detainee Admissions and Hearsay Evidence, Harvard Law School


Terrill, Richard J., 2009, World Criminal Justice Systems: A Survey, 7th edition, USA, Elsevier

Fenner, 2009, The Hearsay Rule, 2nd edition, USA, Carolina Academic Press

Binder, 2013, Hearsay Handbook (Trial practice series), 4th edition, USA, Clark Boardman Callaghan

Spencer, 2014, Hearsay Evidence in Criminal Proceedings, UK, Hart Publishing


By Mircea Farcău