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Does a letter need to be notarized to stand up in court

Portland, OR |

I want to be my friend's witness in courtto testified that I was at her ex boyfriend's house when he stalked her and tellings lies about her, therefore i won't be able to make it, Will my unnotorized letter stand up in court?

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Attorney answers 4


In most cases, you will need to testify personally. Whether your letter is notarized or not, probably won't make a difference. If you want to help your friend, I suggest you make yourself available. Good luck!

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Probably not. Your out-of-court statement which will be offered for the truth of it contains will be considered hearsay evidence, and therefore, most likely will be excluded from evidence.

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The other posters are right and the judge probably won't even look at your letter whether it's notarized or not. The reason for this is that your letter is hearsay.

"Hearsay" is a statement that was made out of court that is now being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Here, your letter is an out-of-court statement. Your friend would presumably offer it to the court to help prove the stalking charges or to prove that her ex lied. This means that she would be offering it to "prove the truth of the matter asserted." Therefore, your letter is inadmissible hearsay.

You can always impeach the credibility of a witness (show that the ex is lying or show that he has a reason to lie), but there's also a rule that says that otherwise inadmissible evidence (such as your letter) cannot be admitted into evidence via impeachment.

My colleagues are right: if you really want to help your friend, you need to show up in person. Plus, a live person, if you're a credible witness, carries much more weight than a written, faceless letter.

If you absolutely cannot go to the trial, there may be other options:
(1) Your friend could seek a postponement or reset so that you can appear on a different date;
(2) Your deposition could be taken to preserve your testimony (there are a very limited set of circumstances when this is allowed and the other side needs to get a certain amount of notice and has a right to be there);
(3) If the problem is getting out of work, you could ask your friend to issue a subpoena, which would require you to be there for trial;
(4) Your friend could file a motion to allow you to testify by phone (again, certain requirements must be met and there are particular rules regarding how much notice must be given to the other side here as well).

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A trial involves the other side having the right to cross examine a witness. Written testimony like the affidavit you are suggesting would deprive that defendant of that right. You didn't say if this is a civil or criminal matter. In civil matters the deposition of a witness can be taken with both sides present and then used later in the court proceeding in lieu of live testimony. The other side had a chance to cross examine the witness during the deposition. If this case is civil you could give your testimony by deposition but that can be costly. The best thing is to show up for trial if your testimony is important.

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