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Literally, hearsay is any written or spoken statement not made under an oath to tell the truth. Such unsworn statements are considered unreliable in court and are excluded from evidence, unless one of the exceptions to the hearsay rule is invoked. A frequently used exception is the principle that in formulating expert opinion and testimony, expert witnesses may rely on and recite from hearsay statements.

Definition reprinted with permission from Committee on Psychiatry and Law, of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry: Mental Health Professional and the Legal System