Hearsay is a statement that the declarant does not make while testifying at the current hearing or trial and is offered for the truth of the matter asserted. Rules of Evidence allow this type of evidence in certain cases but under limited circumstances. A point of contentions in Pennsylvania is whether this type of evidence should be permitted at a preliminary hearing in criminal case if it is the only evidence the Commonwealth relies on to establish a prima facie case.
In the Commonwealth v. Ricker, the Superior Court issued an opinion that said the Commonwealth could establish a prima facie case at preliminary hearing based on hearsay evidence alone. However, on April 18, 2016, the Supreme has granted a Petition for Allowance of Appeal in Commonwealth v. Ricker, to address the following:
Whether the Pennsylvania Superior Court wrongly held, in a published opinion of first impression, that a defendant does not have a state or federal constitutional right to confront the witness against him at a preliminary hearing and that a prima facie case may be proven by the Commonwealth through hearsay evidence alone, which is what the trial and magisterial district courts concluded in Petitioner’s case? The Superior Court holding currently under review seemingly cuts against a criminal defendant’s right to “cross-examine witnesses and inspect physical evidence offered against the defendant” guaranteed by Pa.R.Crim.P. 542.
We will be watching this case closely to see if the Supreme Court will overturn the Superior Court decision. If you or someone you know has been charged with crime you/they should consult with an attorney to ensure that hearsay evidence is not used in Court beyond what the law allows. An experienced attorney at the Mazza Law Group will review your case to ensure your rights are not violated. Call today to set up and appointment.