Courts are confined by strict procedural rules. A basic rule that you may be aware of is the hearsay rule. This rule is notorious for keeping out the “he said, she said” statements out of court procedures.
To explain further, a witness cannot testify in court about something other people have said to him or her. The witness can only testify to what the witness has a first-hand knowledge on. On its face, hearsay rule seems fairly easy to comprehend; however, that is not always the case.
Lets say for example, that you’re involved in a capital murder case. Notably, Mr. Smith told you that the defendant killed the victim. If you are on stand and state “Mr. Smith told me the defendant killed the victim” that would be inadmissible.
In the above scenario, you testified what Mr. Smith said and not to what you have personally seen or experienced. Instead, if you had actually witnessed the murder and testified that you saw the defendant kill the victim it would be deemed admissible.
Now, not all hearsay statement are as cut and dry as the example above. Many times, the hearsay rule is applicable to documents proffered to the court as evidence. One example would be a police report.
If the police report contained statements from another person, the document would not be admissible in court due to the hearsay rule, unless that person is present at the hearing and testifies to the statements made in the documents.
Here, in a case arising out of Geneva County, Alabama the Court of Civil Appeals held that a National Crime Information Center (“NCIC)” document was hearsay in the case of Ingmire v. State of Alabama.
In the case at hand, Chris Lee (“Lee”) was interested in purchasing a new four-wheeler off of Craig’s list. The seller, Charles Ingmire (“Ingmire”), replied and stated that Lee could come look at the four-wheeler. Lee agreed to purchase the four-wheeler for $2,400 in cash. Lee requested a bill of sale, and Ingmire’s girlfriend drafted one. The bill of sale indicated that it was being sold by “James Wheeler.” However, Lee failed to notice the discrepancy in the bill of sale and took the four-wheeler home.
After examining the four-wheeler more closely, Lee became suspicious because some wires had been cut and tied together. Lee contacted the local police department and determined that the four-wheeler had been stolen. Ingmire was arrested, and a jury found him guilty of theft of property in the second degree. Accordingly, Ingmire appealed.
At trial, Officer Bruner, an officer with the Geneva County Sheriff’s Department, testified about a NCIC report from Florida regarding a stolen four-wheeler. Defense counsel objected and raised the issue of Officer Bruner’s testimony being admitted into evidence. Here, the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Officer Bruner’s testimony regarding the information he received from the NCIC report was, by definition, hearsay and should be excluded from trial court record.
If you need a criminal defense lawyer in Birmingham or Alabama, contactBirmingham criminal defense lawyer Joseph A. Ingram at (205) 656-0044.