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California’s Secondary Evidence Rule (Part 1)

THE ADMISSIBILITY OF A WRITING IN COURT REQUIRES ANALYSIS UNDER THE BEST EVIDENCE RULE, KNOWN IN CALIFORNIA AS THE SECONDARY EVIDENCE RULE

PEOPLE v. COON

Faxed copies of documents properly admitted per secondary evidence rule where no genuine dispute existed as to authenticity.

FACTS:

A jury convicted James Dale Coon of transporting methamphetamine possessing methamphetamine for sale, receiving a stolen vehicle, being a felon in possession of a firearm, being a felon in possession of ammunition, and possessing a vehicle component with a defaced or destroyed identification number. In a separate proceeding, the trial court found true allegations Coon committed counts 1, 2, 6, 9, and 10 while out on bail. The trial court sentenced Coon to a term of 3 years 4 months in prison.

Coon appealed, arguing that the trial court prejudicially erred in admitting faxed copies of certified court records to establish he was on bail when he committed the crimes charged in counts 1, 2, 6, 9, and 10.

DISCUSSION:

To prove the allegation Coon was on bail at the time he committed the crimes charged in counts 1, 2, 6, 9, and 10, the prosecutor presented and the trial court admitted into evidence copies of two minute orders and a 28-page case print from People v. Coon, Superior Court Riverside County, 2005, No. SWF011097 (Riverside County case). The documents show Coon was out on bail in the Riverside County case when the acts underlying counts 1, 2, 6, 9, and 10 occurred.

The Riverside County Superior Court’s seal is stamped on the documents next to a certificate stating, “Each document to which this certificate is attached is certified to be a full, true and correct copy of the original on file and of record in my office.” The certificate was dated and signed by a deputy court clerk. Above the certificate, a notice stating, “This must be in red to be a ‘CERTIFIED COPY.'”

Printed across the top of the documents was a transmit terminal identification header showing the documents were faxed to the prosecutor from the Riverside County Superior Court Clerk’s Office. Because the documents were faxed, the documents were not original certified copies of court records. Rather, the documents were copies of certified copies.

Coon contended that the trial court erred in admitting the documents because they were not original certified copies. However, this court disagreed.

This Legal Information is provided as a service to our readers by the riverside criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich.

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