Michigan Court Discusses “Excited Utterance” Exception to the Hearsay Rule

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Michigan domestic violence case involving the defendant’s challenge to the admission of the victim’s statement to police. The case required the court to discuss the general prohibition of hearsay in criminal trials, as well as the “excited utterance” exception.

Hearsay is defined as an out-of-court statement that is being offered to establish the truth of the statement’s contents. For example, a witness’ statement that “the man was wearing a red hat” would be inadmissible to prove that the color of the man’s hat was red. However, if the same statement was admitted to show that the witness actually observed the man, it may be admissible because it would not be used to prove the truth of the statement’s contents. The concerns around hearsay are based on the reliability of an out-of-court statement and the defendant’s inability to cross-examine the person who made the statement.

Hearsay rules are complex, and not all statements that would seem to fit into the hearsay definition are precluded from evidence. The excited utterance exception is one of the more common exceptions to the hearsay rule. Under the excited utterance exception, “a statement relating to a startling event or condition made while the declarant was under the stress of excitement caused by the event or condition is admissible even if the declarant is available to testify as a witness.” The idea behind the exception is that people who are “under the sway of excitement precipitated by an external startling event will not have the reflective capacity essential for fabrication so that any utterance will be spontaneous and trustworthy.”

In the recent case, the defendant was alleged to have assaulted his partner. The day after the alleged assault, the victim went to police to file a report. She told a police officer what happened. Rather than call the victim at trial, the prosecution called the police officer, who testified to what the victim told him. The defendant objected, arguing that the victim’s statement to the officer was hearsay and did not fall within the excited utterance exception because the statement was made the day following the alleged assault.

The court rejected the defendant’s argument, finding that the statement qualified as an excited utterance. The court pointed out that, in the detective’s testimony, he indicated that the victim was “fearful, shaking, and appeared to be startled” when he was speaking with her. He also noted that she was limp and had bruises all over her. Thus, the court determined that the victim was “still under the stress of the event when the statements were made.” As a result, the court held that the statement was admissible.

Have You Been Arrested for a Michigan Domestic Violence Offense?

If you have recently been arrested and charged with a Michigan domestic violence offense, contact Michigan Defense Law for immediate assistance. Attorney Paul Tafelski is an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney who proudly defends the rights of those facing all types of serious allegations, including allegations of violence, drug offenses, and weapons crimes. To learn more about how Attorney Tafelski can help you defend your freedom from the charges you are facing, call 248-451-2200 to schedule a free consultation today.

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