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Ticket can't constitute 'testimonial hearsay'

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Because a chemical breath-test evidence ticket is a mechanically produced readout that can’t be considered “testimonial hearsay” under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, the Indiana Court of Appeals held a man’s Sixth Amendment rights weren’t violated when the equipment technician didn’t testify at his drunk-driving trial.  

Timothy Cranston was pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving and failed every field sobriety test. He was taken to jail and given a chemical breath test using a blood alcohol concentration Datamaster with keyboard. He blew a 0.15 and was eventually convicted of Class A misdemeanor operating a vehicle while intoxicated with an alcohol concentration equivalent to 0.15 or greater.

The officer who arrested Cranston and administered the test testified during the trial, and an official certificate of compliance verifying routine inspection of the machine was introduced. The director at the Department of Toxicology who signed the certificate didn’t testify.

Cranston argued this violated his Sixth Amendment right to confrontation. He claimed the ticket prepared for use in a criminal prosecution is “testimonial” evidence subject to the Confrontation Clause.

But Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), applies only to statements qualifying as hearsay. Because mechanically generated data aren’t hearsay statements in the first place, the prevailing view from other jurisdictions is that they can’t constitute testimonial hearsay for purposes of Crawford and the Confrontation Clause, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik in Timothy Cranston v. State of Indiana, No. 29A02-1003-CR-374
 
“Mechanically-generated or computerized information may constitute hearsay when incorporating a certain degree of human input and/or interpretation,” she wrote. “But the B.A.C. Datamaster, for example, while requiring administrative input from the test operator and a breath sample from the test subject, calculates and prints a subject’s blood alcohol concentration through a mechanical process involving no material human intervention.”

The appellate court concurred with other jurisdictions that have held the evidence ticket produced by a chemical breath-test machine isn’t testimonial hearsay subject to Crawford and the Sixth Amendment. It also disagreed with the holding in Napier v. State, 820 N.E.2d 144, 150-151 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005), that finds the evidence ticket inadmissible on Sixth Amendment grounds, implying that tickets constitute testimonial hearsay. Neither the test operator nor any other live witnesses testified at Napier’s trial unlike Cranston’s trial where the officer who administered the test was a witness.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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