Language Interpreting & Translation, and Excited Utterances in a Foreign Language

The majority of out-of-court statements made by another person are hearsay and therefore inadmissible as evidence. However, numerous exceptions to the hearsay rule exist. One of these exceptions is the Excited Utterance.

An excited utterance is an out-of-court statement relating to a startling event, made while under the stress of the excitement from the event or before the declarant has time to reflect upon the event. (F.R.E. 803(2).

If the statement is made within this narrow and oftentimes gray timeframe, then one can testify as to these out-of-court statements.

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However, this exception becomes even grayer when the excited utterance is made in a foreign language. Although the courts are reluctant to issue a firm ruling on the issue, the following points can be surmised:

  • If there is a qualified excited utterance made in a foreign language, that excited utterance can be introduced through an interpreter so long as the foreign language interpreter is established as a qualified expert and the excited utterance was properly recorded in its original foreign language. Diaz v. State, 1999 DE 4419 (DE 1999).
  • When an excited utterance is made in a foreign language to a witness who does not understand the foreign language, such a statement will most likely not be admissible as there is no way to prove that the statement was in fact an excited utterance. This holds true even when the utterance’s meaning can be generally understood through accompanying body language and hand gestures. St. Louis Co. v. Schenewerk, No. 74904 (E.D. Miss. Ct. Ap. 1999).

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