Legal Memorandum: Admissibility of Written Witness Statements

Issue: Under Nevada law, are written witness statements from a criminal matter admissible as evidence at a civil trial?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Written witness statements; Hearsay rule; Evidence
Jurisdiction: Federal, Nevada
Cited Cases: 707 P.2d 1121; 521 F.2d 957; 890 S.W.2d 899; 490 N.Y.S.2d 595; 101 Nev. 219; 45 Conn. App. 577
Cited Statutes: Nevada's § 51.155
Date: 05/01/2000

           A review of cases decided in states with rules of evidence mirroring the Federal Rules indicates that written witness statements are generally considered hearsay and do not fall within any of the exceptions to the hearsay rule.  The main case on point in Nevada is Frias v. Valle, 101 Nev. 219, 698 P.2d 875 (1985).  In Frias, the Nevada Supreme Court held that the trial court had erred in admitting a police officer’s accident report into evidence because it contained statements from third parties, as well as the officer’s conclusions as to the cause of the accident.  Id. at 221, 698 P.2d at 876.  The court noted that it is for the trier of fact to decide the cause of the accident.  Id.

In Miranda v. State, 101 Nev. 562, 707 P.2d 1121 (1985), the defendant sought to introduce statements made to the police under the business records exception.  The court refused to admit the statements, holding that the business records exception does not permit introduction of an out-of-court witness statement given to police by a witness to a crime.  Id. at 566, 707 P.2d at 1124 (citing Frias v. Valle and United States v. Smith, 521 F.2d 957, 964 (D.C. Cir. 1975)).

Frias v. Valle and Miranda v. State appear to be the only Nevada cases on point.  However, other states have interpreted language identical to Nevada’s § 51.155, mirroring the Federal Rules of Evidence.  The cases include: