Long Beach Defense Attorney Discusses The “Spontaneous Declaration” Exception to Hearsay in Child Sexual Abuse Cases

Hearsay is not allowed to be used in Court except in certain circumstances, one is the spontaneous declaration exception.  A statement purporting to describe an event perceived by the declarant and made spontaneously while the declarant was under the stress of excitement caused by the event may be admissible hearsay under the “spontaneous declaration” exception to the hearsay rule. According to one Long Beach Defense Attorney, spontaneous declarations of children who are incompetent to testify in criminal court concerning sexual molestation are admissible as well in California.  This is true  in child dependency cases as well.  The rationale behind this exception is that the statement is likely to be trustworthy because the declarant has had no time or opportunity to contrive a false statement. Under this exception, for the statements to be inherently trustworthy, the time lapse between the event and the statements should have been minimal, and the declarant’s reflective power must have been sufficiently in abeyance that the statement is completely spontaneous.  In one case where the Court ruled on the issue (In Re. Damon H.), the two year, nine-month-old declarant told his mother within ten minutes of returning home from an encounter with the minor offender that “Damon put his  weenie in my butt.” The court held that, despite this ten-minute lapse, the requirements for spontaneity were still met because the declarant remained in an extremely excited state (crying) for the entire time. Moreover, the spontaneity requirements were not defeated by the fact that the declarant’s statement was in response to a simple inquiry. Similarly, a two-day time lapse did not defeat the admissibility of statements of a two-and-a-half-year-old when she had been with the perpetrator for that entire period and his departure provoked an immediate outpouring of previously withheld utterances. People v Trimble (1992) 5 CA4th 1225, 1234−1235,  In addition, the Damon H. court held that despite the declarant’s testimonial incompetence, which was the subject of a stipulation, the child’s statement could nevertheless be admitted as a spontaneous declaration.  In other words, the declarant need not have been competent to testify at the time that the out-of-court statement was made. A crucial factor in permitting hearsay under the spontaneous declaration exception is that the declarant should not have had time to reflect and invent a story.  Matthew Ruff  is a Long Beach Defense Attorney that handles child molestation cases in Southern California.

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