Each state enacts rules of evidence that govern the admissibility of various kinds of information and testimony during a court proceeding. Most people have heard of something called “hearsay” – a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Hearsay is typically inadmissible, subject to certain enumerated exceptions. In any criminal case, no matter what the charges, it is important to fully understand the rules of evidence and how they can strengthen one’s defense. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, it is extremely important that you contact an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
A recent Maryland case illustrates how knowledge of the hearsay rules can help a person successfully appeal a criminal conviction. In Baker v. State of Maryland, Michael Edward Baker was convicted of various sex offenses, second-degree assault, and impersonating a police officer. According to the victim’s testimony, on July 18, 2013, she had been “prostituting,” and she received a cell phone call from the defendant/appellant seeking to set up a time to meet her. When they met, the defendant showed her a police badge, told her he was a police officer, and forced her to perform certain sexual acts against her will. The victim alleged that the defendant raped her.
The victim ultimately told a police officer what had happened, showed him the phone number the defendant had called from, and later identified the man from a photo array prepared by the officer. At trial, this officer testified that he obtained the number from the victim’s cell phone (that she identified as the person who raped her). He also stated that, based on call records from AT&T, he was able to identify the number as belonging to the defendant. The officer testified that there were several calls to the victim’s phone from the defendant’s phone on the night she was allegedly raped.
The defendant appealed the conviction, arguing that the lower court erred by admitting the call records connecting his phone with the victim’s phone. He maintained that such evidence was inadmissible hearsay and could not have been admitted on the basis that the officer provided expert opinion testimony. The State asserted a couple of arguments, in effect claiming that the trial court properly exercised its discretion to admit the cell phone records. The appellate court looked at whether the evidence constituted hearsay or whether it was admissible under one of the exceptions to the rule.
Interestingly enough, no court in Maryland has addressed the specific issue of whether computer records generally, or call records specifically, constitute hearsay. After reviewing court decisions from other jurisdictions, the court of special appeals concluded that computer-generated records generally do not constitute hearsay. But here, the court pointed out that there was no evidence to show how these call records were produced, and that they are unable to show that there was no human input. Therefore, the court concluded that it could not affirm the admission of evidence on the basis that it did not constitute hearsay.
The presentation of evidence in a criminal trial is crucial to a case. If you are facing a criminal arrest or charge, it is important to contact an experienced criminal attorney who understands the rules of evidence and can prepare a strong defense for your case. Anthony A. Fatemi has extensive experience handling criminal defense cases in Maryland. Our office will work diligently to develop a strong strategy to defend your case. Contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.
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