EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Gun It: Ninth Circuit Finds Firearm Registration Report Admissible Under Rules 803(8), 902(4)

Federal Rule of Evidence 803(8) provides an exception to the rule against hearsay for

Records, reports, statements, or data compilations, in any form, of public offices or agencies, setting forth (A) the activities of the office or agency, or (B) matters observed pursuant to duty imposed by law as to which matters there was a duty to report, excluding, however, in criminal cases matters observed by police officers and other law enforcement personnel, or (C) in civil actions and proceedings and against the Government in criminal cases, factual findings resulting from an investigation made pursuant to authority granted by law, unless the sources of information or other circumstances indicate lack of trustworthiness.

As the recent opinion of the Ninth Circuit in United States v. Buttner, 2011 WL 1790090 (9th Cir. 2011), makes clear, a firearm registration report generated by the Automated Firearms System (AFS) database is admissible hearsay under Rule 803(8) and is also self-authenticating.

In Buttner, Jerry Buttner appealed a judgment following a jury verdict convicting him of unlawful possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). Buttner thereafter appealed, claiming, inter alia, that "the district court erroneously admitted into evidence a firearm registration report generated by the Automated Firearms System (AFS) database maintained by the California Department of Justice."

The Ninth Circuit disagreed, concluding that

The AFS report falls under the public records exception to hearsay. See  Fed.R.Evid. 803(8). That exception allows for the admission of "the sundry sorts of public documents for which no serious controversy ordinarily arises about their truth, and it would be a great waste of time to have the person who created them come to court and testify, such as birth certificates, death certificates, judgments, licenses, and the like."...The firearms report was generated from data that the California Department of Justice keeps “pursuant to duty imposed by [the California Penal Code]."...This "ministerial, objective, and nonevaluative" record-keeping raises no hearsay concerns

Moreover, the court found that the report was self-authenticating under Federal Rule of Evidence 902(4), which provides that

Extrinsic evidence of authenticity as a condition precedent to admissibility is not required with respect to the following:....

(4) Certified copies of public records. A copy of an official record or report or entry therein, or of a document authorized by law to be recorded or filed and actually recorded or filed in a public office, including data compilations in any form, certified as correct by the custodian or other person authorized to make the certification, by certificate complying with paragraph (1), (2), or (3) of this rule or complying with any Act of Congress or rule prescribed by the Supreme Court pursuant to statutory authority.



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