Gossip is notoriously unreliable, and if you are on trial for an alleged crime in California, you do not want someone repeating a rumor as evidence against you in court. The law recognizes the unreliability of gossip, which is why hearsay evidence is usually not admissible in court. In other words, a witness generally cannot repeat a story that he or she heard about you from someone else as evidence in a court of law.
According to FindLaw, however, there are many exceptions to the rule against hearsay evidence. For example, if the declarant is unavailable due to death or illness, if the court is unable to locate the declarant or if the law does not require the declarant to testify and he or she refuses, then certain types of evidence that hearsay rules would ordinarily exclude may be admissible. These include statements against interest, statements of family/personal history, former testimony and statements made under the belief of imminent death.
Sometimes hearsay evidence is admissible not because of its content but what it reveals about the situation. For example, the evidence may show that the person saying it was in a heightened emotional state of excitement or anger. Another exception is a present sense impression that explains or describes a specific event. However, this is only acceptable if the statement occurred either just after the event or while it was still going on.
Hearsay statements about a person's reputation may be admissible, as may statements made to a medical provider for treatment or diagnostic purposes. The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.