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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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