Excited Utterances Law & Legal Definition

Excited utterances are an exception to the hearsay rule, which prohibits introduction of out-of-court statements of unavailable witnesses into evidence when offered for truthfulness. Excited utterances are certain statements made under the influence of a startling event.

Under the Federal Rules and most courts, there are two requirements for the exception: (1) the statement must relate to a startling event or condition; and (2) the statement must have been made while the declarant was still under the stress of excitement caused by the event or condition. 

In determining whether the declarant was still under the influence of the startling event, courts examine the time that has passed between the event and the statement. Usually, statements made during the exciting event or within half an hour afterward are admitted, statements made more than an hour later are not, and statements between a half hour and an hour are decided based on the surrounding circumstances.

Facts showing that the declarant had time for reflection will cause the exception not to apply. Thus if the statement is very self-serving, or is in response to a detailed question, the court is likely to find that the declarant reflected (rather than speaking spontaneously), so that the exception should not apply. Some courts insist that the excited utterance explain or refer to the startling event. But this is not required by the Federal Rules or other courts.