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People v Kanhai

People v Kanhai

Court Discusses Whether Business Records are an Exception to the Hearsay Rule under the Principle of Crawford v Washington

The criminal defendant was arrested and charged for one count of of driving a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol DWI under section 1192(1) of the Vehicle and Traffic Law. At the defendant’s bench trial, the defendant objected to the use of the exhibits which contained statements of individuals who were not called to testify. The defendant also objected to the use of the certified copies of field inspection reports, and the simulator solution lot analysis by police department technicians and scientists on the breath analysis instrument used in defendant’s breath alcohol test. The defendant relied on the Crawford v Washington 542 US 36 [2004], in his objections as the admission of the statements into evidence violated his Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The defendant argued that since he was not permitted to cross-examine the maker of the statements, who were the actual technicians, the documents were impermissible hearsay. According to defendant, the Crawford eliminated that the business records are an exception to the hearsay rule.

In Crawford, it was held that an accused’s right of confrontation was violated when testimonial evidence was admitted without the defendant’s having an opportunity to cross-examine the witness. In Crawford it stated that unless the witness was unavailable at trial, and the defendant had an opportunity to cross-examine the witness otherwise, the statements made out of court were inadmissible. However, there was no definition of the term testimonial evidence. The court re-examined the principle of a business records taking into consideration the Crawford decision. Historically, business records were an exception to the hearsay rule and they were not testimonial in nature. They were looking for DWAI.

The People sought to introduce the exhibits under the business records which was considered as an exception to the hearsay rule under section 4518 (c) the Civil Procedure Law Rules. In New York business records became a part of the exception to hearsay in order to overcome the problems associated with the common law rules which severely hampered proof of many valid claims. Business records were permitted into evidence under section 4518 of the CPLR because it recognized that it would be impractical to produce all persons who were involved in the making of the record and that the records made were routinely in the course of business, thus they could be considered trustworthy. There was no requirement that the maker of the statement was had to be unavailable to admit the statement into evidence on the ground that it was a business record.

The exhibits which the defendant sought to prohibit were business records as the New York Police Department and the New York State Police Crime Laboratory were classified as businesses under the section 4518 (a) of the CPLR. The exhibits related to the field unit inspection tests, were conducted on three different dates, as a routine course of business for the Police Department to evaluate whether the breath testing machines were accurate. The calibration tests were contained in another exhibit which were conducted as a routine course of business to maintain the operability and accuracy of the machine. The records of the breath machines where kept pursuant to the New York State Department of Health Rules and Regulation which stated that the proper and adequate records of methods and procedures, analyses, and results shall be maintained by each agency or criminal laboratory using breath analysis instruments, including but not limited to operational check list, calibration test records, and certifications for standards and ampoules. Therefore, the business documents which the People relied on were kept for regulatory purposes rather than for the purpose of litigation. The tests on machine were to ensure that accurate results were registered when taken as such it was used for administrative purpose or regulatory reasons.

The exhibits were admissible under the business document rule as they were recorded for administrative purpose even though the documents were relied on during litigation. In the People v Foster 27 NY2d 47 52 [1970] the defendant challenged the admission of the speedometer deviation record into evidence to prove the reliability of the speedometer. It was held that the tests were made at regularly scheduled intervals, and were classic examples of records made and kept in the regular the police business of maintaining highway safety. Although the records were later used in litigation, this possible future use did not defeat their admissibility as business records. The main purpose of the exhibits in this case was for police business in maintaining the safety of the highway. As a result, they were not testimonial in nature as the records were not kept for litigation but being used in litigation proceeding was incidental. The proper operation of the breath machine was not only important to an accused charged but also to someone who was pulled over on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

Therefore, Certified copies of calibration test result records, field unit inspection test reports, and the simulator solution lot analysis by the police department technicians and scientists on the breath analysis instrument used in the defendant’s breath alcohol test were admissible against the defendant, charged with driving a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol DWI, even without an opportunity for the defendant to cross-examine the technicians or scientists who prepared the records. The certified documents at issue satisfied the business records exception to the hearsay rule (CPLR 4518 [c]) since the police department and police laboratory qualified as businesses (CPLR 4518 [a]), the tests were performed prior to the defendant’s arrest at regularly scheduled intervals as a routine course of business to maintain the operability and accuracy of the instrument used, and records of the results were required to be maintained under state law. Although Crawford v Washington held that admission of testimonial evidence from a presently unavailable witness whom the accused had no prior opportunity to cross-examine violates the accused’s Sixth Amendment right of confrontation, New York’s statutory embodiment of the business record hearsay exception survived the decision in Crawford.

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