Just What Does “Reliable Hearsay” Mean in Your Litigation?

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Did you know that, under a new Florida bill recently passed in both the state House and Senate, crime victims will be allowed to present “reliable hearsay” as evidence in their cases, when they are seeking restitution for lost or damaged property? It is up to the governor whether to sign off on the legislation, but if passed, it will go into effect on July 1, 2021.

In its most basic form, “reliable hearsay” means a regular, reputable source that many people would consult in their everyday life. It does not mean something that you simply hear “on the street” or while at the corner store, from one customer talking to another. Instead, reliable means a source that is generally accepted information. For example, when attempting to value a car, many people turn to the Kelly Blue Book. Prior to this bill, submitting a Kelly Blue Book estimate of a car’s value was not allowed in court because this was considered hearsay. Under the new bill, the attorney for a victim of car theft or damage could submit the Kelly Blue Book estimate as evidence in court.

If you are the victim of a crime, you will soon be able to present a “reliable hearsay” source to a judge whose job it is to determine the correct amount of restitution you should receive. A judge must consider the original cost of your damaged or stolen property, its typical use, the condition it was in when it was damaged or stolen, and the amount of depreciation it has undergone. A source considered to be reliable hearsay may help a judge in your case reach the appropriate value to consider for the purposes of setting restitution. 

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