Excited Utterances in Child Sex Abuse Cases

Although each state’s sex crime statutes differ, an excited utterance can be defined as 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.  An example of an excited utterance is if a child yells out, “mommy, he just touched me in a bad place” directly or shortly after being touched.

Court’s have ruled that such statements are highly credible because they are spontaneous and unreflected, without influence from thought, design and reason.  They reason that an excited utterance is the event speaking and not the speaker.  For these reasons, these types of statements are admissible, and are not barred by ordinary hearsay rules.

The problem is that courts often apply the definition very broadly.  For example, the court in Commonwealth v. Gore, 262 Pa. Super. stated, “The crucial question, regardless of the time lapse, is whether, at the time the statement is made, the nervous excitement continues to dominate while the reflective processes remain in abeyance”.  Using such interpretations, a child’s out-of-court statements may be admitted even if the statement was made days, or weeks after the alleged event.  Courts often allow out-of-court statements made by children to be admitted in lieu of live testimony to spare children from the stress of testifying.

We have encountered this issue numerous times, and have many highly compelling arguments on hand to counter this maneuver.  This is an example of why it is imperative to hire an attorney who has extensive experience in child sexual abuse defense.  We highly recommend your reading our blog on Confrontation Rights.

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