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Admission of return of service did not violate Confrontation Clause

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In a matter of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals Friday concluded that a return of service on a protective order is not testimonial, so its admission at trial did not violate a defendant’s rights under the Confrontation Clause.

Ronald Gaines appealed his conviction of Class A misdemeanor invasion of privacy, arguing two exhibits – a page showing Gaines was served with a copy of a protective order and a certified printout indicated he received personal service of the order – violated his confrontation rights and contained hearsay.

The trial court granted an ex parte protective order against Gaines and he was served by the Marion County Sheriff’s Department. He was arrested after violating the order by showing up at S.G.’s home.

Gaines claimed that the certified copy of the ex parte order shouldn’t have been admitted because it violated his rights under the Sixth Amendment. He wanted to be able to cross-examine the sheriff’s deputy regarding the service.

Other courts have rejected Gaines’ argument, the Court of Appeals noted, pointing to cases from Arizona, Massachusetts, and Oregon.

“The primary purpose of the return of service is administrative — ensuring that the defendant received notice of the protective order. Although the return of service may be used later in a criminal prosecution, the return of service was not created solely for use in a pending or future criminal prosecution. As such, we conclude that the return of service was not testimonial, and its admission did not violate Gaines’s rights under the Confrontation Clause,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote in Ronald Gaines v. State of Indiana, 49A04-1303-CR-123.

The judges also rejected Gaines’ claim that the evidence is insufficient to sustain his conviction because of a variance between the charging information and the proof at trial.

“There is no indication that Gaines was misled by the alleged variance here. In fact, the difference between an ex parte protective order and a protective order was never mentioned during the trial. There was only one protective order issued, and there was no confusion as to what protective order was at issue. … Gaines has failed to show how he is vulnerable to double jeopardy in a future criminal proceeding,” Barnes wrote.

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