A woman was accused of driving while intoxicated. During her trial, the District Attorney presented affidavits and certifications attesting to the analysis and results of tests done by the forensic laboratory. The District Attorney tried to establish the reliability of the tests used by the forensic laboratory by further offering in evidence the certification of the Inspector General o the New York State Police Crime Laboratories attesting to the s of the tests as part of the regular course of business of the police crime laboratories.
The District Attorney also attempted to introduce into evidence the certifications of the officials of the Office of Public Safety as to the regularity of the inspection, maintenance and calibration performed by them on the machines used to test the alcohol content of the breath of accused.
The accused moved to suppress these affidavits and certifications on the ground that these documents are really testimonial evidence given by Police Crime Laboratory officials whom she had a right to confront. She asserted that she had the right to test their credibility and whether they followed the prescribed protocol.
The People contend that the certifications are documents which are admissible as business records and that the accused has no right to cross-examine the officials of the crime laboratory who issued them.
The only questions before the Supreme Court are: whether or not these affidavits and certifications are sufficient in themselves to be admitted as evidence or, whether they still need to be authenticated by the signatories themselves; and if the accused is entitled to cross-examine the officials who signed these certifications.
The Court ruled that the Constitution guarantees the accused the right to confront those who bear testimony against him. A testimony is a statement which was made which leads one to believe that the statement will later be available for use during a trial.
Those documents presented were declarations of facts, written down and sworn to under oath. They were made as affirmations that establish or prove a fact. Thus, they are declarations which a witness in court when testifying in open court on direct examination.
Even if the certifications were not prepared specifically for use in court for the prosecution of a particular individual; and even if they only contain indirect or foundational evidence and do not directly establish the defendant’s guilt; still they cannot be considered as just business records which are systematically entered officially in the usual discharge of official duties.
These records and certifications cannot be presumed neutral in the same sense as business records because they were created by law enforcement officers for other law enforcement officers and were not objectively prepared by a third person who is indifferent to the outcome of the prosecutions for which these certifications are used.
Allowing the accused in this case to confront the persons who issued these certifications is one means of ensuring that forensic analysis using these machines are accurate. The right to confront the forensic analyst will effectively weed out fraudulent and incompetent analysts. While the Court does not presume that the forensic analysts in the police crime laboratories are fraudulent or incompetent, the right to confront them will make sure that they maintain a measure of objectivity and accuracy. The motion filed by the accused to preclude the certifications introduced as evidence is granted.
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