Booking card exception to hearsay rule

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A booking card created by law enforcement in the course of a ministerial, nonevaluative booking process is not subject to the police reports exclusion under Indiana Evidence Rule 803(8), the Indiana Court of Appeals decided today.

In Stacey Fowler v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0910-CR-1037, Stacey Fowler argued that her battery victim’s booking card from a prior, unrelated arrest wasn’t admissible under the public records exception to the hearsay rule, and the introduction violated her constitutional confrontation rights. Fowler was arrested and convicted of Class B misdemeanor battery against her husband, Ricky Fowler.

Police came to the Fowlers’ home after Ricky called the police. Ricky identified himself once police arrived and said Stacey had taken his wallet. While there, Stacey pushed Ricky with both hands and he was knocked off balance. Stacey was arrested for battery, and an officer got Ricky’s wallet from Stacey’s truck and found Ricky’s photo ID. At trial, the state introduced certified “Booking information” from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department with a mugshot of Ricky with his name, date of birth, and physical description to help identify the victim because he didn’t attend the trial. One of the arresting officers testified that the person in the photo was Ricky.

The Court of Appeals judges had to look to other jurisdictions to aid in their decision that the booking would fall under the public records exception. The public records exception excludes investigative police reports when offered against the accused in criminal trials, but it does not bar admission of police records pertaining to “routine, ministerial, objective nonevaluative matters made in non-adversarial settings.”

Other courts have held the public records exception permits admission of police records created in connection with routine booking procedures, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik. The booking constituted hearsay evidence because it was offered to prove that the man in the mugshot was Ricky.

“The booking card was created by law enforcement, but the biographical information on the printout was obtained and recorded in the course of a ministerial, nonevaluative booking process,” she wrote. “In line with the foregoing, we find that the exhibit fell within the ambit of Evidence Rule 803(8) and was not subject to the police reports exclusion.”

The judges also held that the booking information printout wasn’t testimonial evidence under Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004). It recited biographical and physical identification information obtained only for custodial purposes and wasn’t created to prove some fact at trial.

The Court of Appeals found the identification furnished by the booking card was cumulative but the alleged error was harmless. They also found any alleged error in the exclusion of Stacey’s testimony on out-of-court statements made by the arresting officers at the Fowlers’ home to be waived.  


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