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What is Hearsay in a Maryland DUI Criminal Case?

Hearsay is a complicated legal concept about certain types of evidence that can be found in witness testimony and in documents. Generally, hearsay is a type of evidence that CANNOT be used in a Maryland criminal case. Tenacious and skilled Maryland criminal defense lawyers will fully understand what hearsay evidence is and object to it being used in your criminal case. If the judge makes a mistake and wrongfully allows hearsay evidence, that mistake can be used on appeal in an attempt to overturn a conviction. In this article, the experienced and deeply knowledgeable Maryland criminal defense lawyers at the Law Office of Robert Castro will offer a simple explanation of hearsay using a recent court opinion involving a DUI conviction. If you have been arrested for a DUI in Waldorf, MD, call us at (301) 705-5137. We are available around the clock, 24/7.

What is Hearsay?

By Maryland statute, hearsay is defined as “any out-of-court statement offered at trial to prove the truth of what it asserts.” MD Rule of Evid., 5-801(c). That is complicated, so let’s break it down and look at an example. In simple terms, hearsay involves two people: one is not in court testifying, and one is in court. The out-of-court person says something, and the in-court witness repeats what was said. This is “bad” because the statement made by the out-of-court person cannot be verified or tested in any way in court in front of the jury. That person is not in court, so your criminal defense lawyer cannot cross-examine that person and obtain details and/or attempt to discredit or refuse the statement.

Let’s look at an example from the criminal case of Macey v. State, No. 958, September Term, 2022 (Maryland Appellate Court 2023). Macey was a DUI case that caused an accident. At trial, the arresting police officer was in court and was giving testimony. Part of his testimony was this:

[STATE’S ATTORNEY]: How did you come to encounter the Defendant?

[OFFICER]: I received a call from our dispatch for driving under the influence.


[THE JUDGE]: Overruled.

[STATE]: As a result of hearing that call, what did you do?

[OFFICER]: I responded to that call.

Although not stated, the objection made by the Maryland criminal defense attorney was on the basis of hearsay. Why? The in-court officer testified to a statement made by an out-of-court person — the person on the “call from our dispatch…” Since the person — “from our dispatch” — was not in court, that person’s claim that there was “a driving under the influence” could not be challenged or tested via a cross-examination. This is “bad” because the jury heard that out-of-court statement and may have concluded that the accused was driving under the influence.

Note that the judge overruled the objection. Eventually, the defendant — Mr. Macey — was convicted of DUI (and other charges). On appeal, the judge’s ruling on the hearsay objection was one basis for asking for the conviction to be overturned. However, the appeal failed on that ground. The Maryland Court of Special Appeal agreed with the trial court. The testimony was properly admitted.

Why? Let’s go back to the definition above. Note TWO things are needed for evidence to be hearsay: an out-of-court statement, AND that statement is being admitted for the truth of the statement. In Casey, the court held that the testimony was NOT hearsay because it was not admitted for the truth of the statement, but rather, to show WHY the police officer went to the scene of the accident.

As can be seen, the concept of hearsay is complicated. This is one reason that you must hire tough and aggressive Maryland criminal defense attorneys if you are arrested and/or charged with a crime.

Contact Waldorf, Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer Robert Castro Today

This article has been provided by the Law Office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions, contact our office to speak to an experienced Maryland criminal defense lawyer at (301) 705-5137. We are Waldorf, MD, Criminal Defense lawyers. Our address is 2670 Crain Highway, Waldorf, MD, 20601.