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The Difference Between Hearsay and Circumstantial Evidence

difference between hearsay circumstantial evidence

Generally, two types of evidence exist in a criminal trial: circumstantial evidence and physical evidence. The difference is easy to understand. Physical evidence directly links the accused to the crime, while circumstantial evidence merely suggests their guilt. But what about the difference between hearsay and circumstantial evidence? If you watch courtroom dramas, maybe you’ve heard, “Objection, hearsay!” What does that mean? We’ll discuss all of this and more in today’s blog post.

Hearsay Defined

First, let’s define the term. Then we can get a clearer picture on the difference between hearsay and circumstantial evidence. Oxford Dictionary defines “hearsay” as, “information received from other people which cannot be substantiated [or confirmed].” To put it another way, “he said, she said.” Rumors, gossip, buzz, tales, speculation. Whatever word you want to use, it’s important to know a court cannot accept hearsay as evidence. Therefore, if someone on the stand says, “I heard from Kevin that Greg stole the diamonds,” the court must dismiss that claim. How does Kevin know Greg stole the diamonds? From whom did he hear that? Was Kevin a direct witness to this crime or not? So, hearsay like this cannot be used to condemn or exonerate an accused person.

Difference Between Hearsay and Circumstantial Evidence

Second, now the tricky part. Let’s say, to use our earlier example, two separate people saw Greg near the jewelry store about the time the robbery occurred. But they did not see Greg steal the diamonds. We call this circumstantial evidence. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being near a jewelry store. However, since Greg was accused of the crime, and seen near the time and place, it certainly suggests Greg could be guilty. How does this differ from hearsay? First, it’s a fact, not a guess or a story. If people saw Greg near the store, then they saw him near the store. That’s different than hearing about him being near the store.

Second, the fact differs from its interpretation. If someone says, “I saw Greg near the store, therefore he committed the crime,” we consider that hearsay. His proximity near the store does not prove he committed the crime. But it implies he might have. Circumstantial evidence are facts that indicate the accused committed the crime. Hearsay are empty or unverifiable claims.

Hire a Lawyer Who Fights for You

Finally, as you can see, knowing the difference between hearsay and circumstantial evidence can get tricky. Hence, it’s essential you find an attorney who knows! If you need the best lawyer for your case, then reach out to Mark Catanzaro today.


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