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San Francisco DUI Lawyer: Case Law - Confrontation Cases

 Posted on July 20, 2012 in DUI

People v. Nunley, --- N.W.2d ----, 2011 WL 4861858 (Mich.App.)

The prosecutor obtained Defendant's “certified driving record, signed and sealed by the Secretary of State” from the Secretary of State's Office, which included a declaration that defendant had been served with an order of license suspension/restriction by mail. 

On appeal from an Order excluding the certificate at trial, the prosecutor argued that the certificate of mailing is analogous to a docketing statement or a clerk's certification authenticating an official record and is therefore non-testimonial and admissible. In support of his argument, the prosecutor relied on the following passage in Melendez–Diaz:

"The dissent identifies a single class of evidence which, though prepared for use at trial, was traditionally admissible: a clerk's certificate authenticating an official record—or a copy thereof—for use as evidence. But a clerk's authority in that regard was narrowly circumscribed. He was permitted “to certify to the correctness of a copy of a record kept in his office,” but had “no authority to furnish, as evidence for the trial of a lawsuit, his interpretation of what the record contains or shows, or to certify to its substance or effect.” [ Melendez–Diaz, 129 S.Ct at 2538–2539 (citations omitted).]

The Michigan appellate court wrote in response:

"The prosecutor asserts that the situation in the present case is identical, arguing that Secretary of State records are similar to a clerk's certification. The prosecutor has missed a crucial distinction. If the document at issue was merely a copy of defendant's driving record sent along with the “Certificate of Mailing,” and “F. Beuter” was merely certifying the authenticity of that record, the prosecutor would have an excellent point. But, the copy of the record is not at issue and Beuter was not certifying its authenticity. Beuter was certifying that the notice of suspension had been sent, the very fact that must be proved to convict defendant of DWLS. The critical distinction is that the author of the certificate of mailing, here F. Bueter, is providing more than mere authentication of documents, he is actually attesting to a required element of the charge. Unlike a docketing statement or clerk's certification, the certificate of mailing will be used against defendant to prove an element of DWLS–2nd offense and is necessary for establishing an essential fact at trial.

The prosecutor also argued that the certificate of mailing is admissible because the Secretary of State's records are not prepared “solely” for trial. It cited to state law requiring that notices of suspensions be sent to the driver and that records of the same be maintained. In rejecting this position, the court replied:

"Careful review of MCL 257.204a reveals that it does not require creation of the certificate or maintenance of the certificates in the Secretary of State's records. Although MCL 257.204a(1)(h) requires the maintenance of “notices,” it does not require records to be kept of the certificates verifying the fact that a notice has been sent. Our review of the record in this case shows that the certificate of mailing does not appear in defendant's certified driving record. The Secretary of State created the certificate of mailing independent of MCL 257.204a.

Additionally, the court wrote:

"A clerk could by affidavit authenticate or provide a copy of an otherwise admissible record, but could not do what the analysts did here: create a record for the sole purpose of providing evidence against a defendant."

In sum, the court stated:

"It is important to keep in mind just what the prosecutor wants to have admitted and what the lower courts refused to admit. It was not defendant's driving record. Nor was it the notice of suspension. It was the certificate of mailing that the notice of suspension was in fact mailed to defendant. The key factor in this case is that the certificate of mailing is proof of notice by virtue of the plain language of MCL 257.212, which will indisputably be used to establish an element of the offense charged."

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