Rule 801 – Definitions That Apply to This Article; Exclusions from Hearsay

The following definitions apply under this article:

(a) Statement. “Statement” means a person’s oral assertion, written assertion, or nonverbal conduct, if the person intended it as an assertion.

(b) Declarant. “Declarant” means the person who made the statement.

(c) Hearsay. “Hearsay” means a statement that:

(1) the declarant does not make while testifying at the current trial or hearing; and

(2) a party offers in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement.

(d) Statements That Are Not Hearsay. A statement that meets the following conditions is not hearsay:

(1) A Declarant-Witness’s Prior Statement. The declarant testifies and is subject to cross-examination about a prior statement, and the statement:

(A) is inconsistent with the declarant’s testimony and was given under penalty of perjury at a trial, hearing, or other proceeding or in a deposition;

(B) is consistent with the declarant’s testimony and is offered:

(i) to rebut an express or implied charge that the declarant recently fabricated it or acted from a recent improper influence or motive in so testifying; or

(ii) to rehabilitate the declarant’s credibility as a witness when attacked on another ground; or

(C) identifies a person as someone the declarant perceived earlier.

(2) An Opposing Party’s Statement. The statement is offered against an opposing party and:

(A) was made by the party in an individual or representative capacity;

(B) is one the party manifested that it adopted or believed to be true;

(C) was made by a person whom the party authorized to make a statement on the subject;

(D) was made by the party’s agent or employee on a matter within the scope of that relationship and while it existed; or

(E) was made by the party’s coconspirator during and in furtherance of the conspiracy.

The statement must be considered but does not by itself establish the declarant’s authority under (C); the existence or scope of the relationship under (D); or the existence of the conspiracy or participation in it under (E).

Summary and Explanation

Federal Rule of Evidence 801 defines what constitutes “hearsay” and lays the foundation for the rules governing the admissibility of out-of-court statements in legal proceedings.

Key points regarding Rule 801:

  1. Definition of Hearsay: Rule 801(a) defines hearsay as an out-of-court statement made by someone other than the current witness, which is offered in court to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement. In simpler terms, it’s when someone tries to use a statement made by someone else as evidence to prove that what the statement says is true.
  2. Not Hearsay: Rule 801(d) provides several categories of statements that are not considered hearsay, even though they are out-of-court statements. These include:
    • Prior Statements by a Witness: A witness’s prior statement is not hearsay when it is offered to impeach or rehabilitate the witness’s credibility.
    • Admissions by a Party-Opponent: Statements made by a party to the case (or attributed to them) are generally not hearsay and can be used against that party.
  3. Hearsay Within Hearsay: Rule 801(c) addresses situations where a statement within a statement could be hearsay. In such cases, each layer of hearsay must independently meet an exception to be admissible.
  4. Importance of Non-Hearsay Use: One of the critical principles of Rule 801 is that the purpose for which a statement is offered determines whether it is hearsay. If a statement is offered for a non-hearsay purpose (e.g., to show a witness’s prior inconsistent statement for impeachment), it may be admissible even if it would be hearsay if offered for a different purpose.

Rule 801 is a foundational rule in the Federal Rules of Evidence that defines what constitutes hearsay and provides exceptions for statements that are not considered hearsay. Understanding the distinction between hearsay and non-hearsay and the specific exceptions is essential in determining whether an out-of-court statement can be admitted as evidence in a legal proceeding.


(Pub. L. 93–595, §1, Jan. 2, 1975, 88 Stat. 1938; Pub. L. 94–113, §1, Oct. 16, 1975, 89 Stat. 576; Mar. 2, 1987, eff. Oct. 1, 1987; Apr. 11, 1997, eff. Dec. 1, 1997; Apr. 26, 2011, eff. Dec. 1, 2011; Apr. 25, 2014, eff. Dec. 1, 2014.)

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