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People are often surprised that they can be arrested and charged with a crime based only on the word of another person. In fact, jurors are often surprised by this as well when they find themselves called upon to evaluate the truth of allegations against my clients. Yes, you can be arrested based only on the word of another. I often hear my clients refer to the verbal claim of another person as "hearsay" or "he said, she said." They are shocked and upset that someone can make up a story about what they did and have them arrested. A police officer needs only probable cause to make an arrest and a person claiming to be victimized is often the only evidence an officer has when making an arrest. There need not be visible injuries or other physical evidence of a crime in order for an officer to arrest you. However, this type of case can ultimately make for weak evidence. 

For example, during a verbal argument with your girlfriend, your girlfriend calls the police and says you hit her. Your girlfriend has no physical injuries and there are no witnesses to a physical fight. The investigating officer might decide he has probable cause to arrest you because your girlfriend's story sounds believable to the officer. You can be arrested for battery based only on your girlfriend's word that you hit her or "he said, she said"--she says you hit her and maybe you tell the officer that you did not hit her. If your relationship with your girlfriend is "domestic" because you have ever lived together or share a child in common, the officer will feel the need to make an arrest. This is because the decision not to make an arrest for domestic violence must be justified in the police report. But even if you are arrested, being found guilty and convicted of battery under these circumstances is quite another matter. 

To lawyers and judges, actual "hearsay" is a bit different from what people call "he said, she said." Hearsay is not just what another person says you did, but rather their statements repeated by another person (or played from a recording) in a courtroom. For instance, if an officer repeats your girlfriend's verbal accusation in court, this would be improper because it is hearsay. The officer did not witness you hit your girlfriend, but rather your girlfriend told him that you hit her. Only your girlfriend, or another person who witnessed the crime, can make this statement in a courtroom. It would be improper for a judge to let an officer testify in court that your girlfriend told the officer you hit your girlfriend because that would be hearsay and hearsay is usually not admissible in court as evidence. 

Regardless of the type of charge, be sure you find a lawyer who is a capable and experienced cross-examiner. In a "he said, she said" case, challenging the credibility of the complaining witness is the most important part of your defense. Ask any lawyer with whom you have a consultation how many cases they have tried before a jury. Ask them how many times they have defended a client against a similar charge. A good lawyer will not be offended. You may be afraid of going to trial, but your attorney should not be. Having a lawyer who is not afraid to defend your case and challenge the state's witnesses before a jury will get a better outcome for your case.

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