Dying Declaration Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Dying Declaration, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Dying Declaration?

n. Statement made by a mortally injured person, indicating who has injured them and/or the circumstances surrounding their injury. The injured is aware that he/she is about to die and while the declaration is hearsay, it is admissible since it is believed that the dying person does not have any reason to lie.

History and Meaning of Dying Declaration

A dying declaration is a statement made by a person who believes they are about to die, regarding the cause or circumstances of their impending death. The statement could include information that implicates a suspect in a crime, or provide key details about how an injury occurred. Dying declarations have a long history, dating back to English common law. In the early days, such statements were deemed admissible in criminal trials only if the victim had been murdered or had died from a mortal injury.

Over time, the rules surrounding dying declarations became more permissive. Today, it is generally accepted that the victim does not need to die for a statement to be considered a dying declaration. It is enough that the victim believed their situation was mortal when making the statement. Additionally, the statement must relate to the cause or circumstances of the injured person's belief in impending death.

Examples of Dying Declaration

  1. A victim of a shooting says to a police officer, "He shot me!" before passing away from their injuries.
  2. A person involved in a car accident whispers to a passerby, "I didn't see the stop sign," before dying at the scene.
  3. A victim of domestic abuse tells a nurse, "He did this to me," before succumbing to their injuries in the hospital.

Legal Terms Similar to Dying Declaration

  1. Hearsay - information someone heard from another person, rather than from their own personal knowledge.
  2. Excited Utterance - a statement made during a stressful or startling event, and therefore presumed to be made without reflection or fabrication.
  3. Res Gestae - a common law doctrine that allows the admission of statements made contemporaneously with an event, if they are crucial to understanding the event.