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

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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Not Warranted?: 8th Circuit Finds No Problem With Admission Of Arrest Warrant In Civil Action

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.

So, under Rule 803(8)B), an arrest warrant could be excluded if offered in a criminal case but not if offered in a civil case, as was the case in Moore v. City of Desloge, Mo., 2011 WL 3189357 (8th Cir. 2011).

In Moore, Jason Moore was arrested by Officer Aaron Malady, who had an arrest warrant for Moore. Moore claimed that he was wrongfully arrested and brought an action against Malady and various other defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1985, alleging violations of various rights arising under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments and state civil conspiracy law. At trial,

Over Moore's objection, the district court received a document purporting to be a warrant for Moore's arrest....Moore made the following objections to the warrant's admissibility, (1) the warrant was not authenticated, (2) there was no foundation for a finding the warrant was issued upon probable cause, (3) there was no foundation the warrant was issued and outstanding on October 4, 2004, (4) the warrant was hearsay, and (5) the warrant was irrelevant because Officer Malady "never had, saw or knew the terms of the alleged arrest warrant prior to the October 9, 2004 seizure of Moore and the...police dispatcher did not offer any evidence of 'probable cause' in this proceeding."

After the court found for the defendants, Moore appealed, renewing his claim that the warrant was improperly admitted. The Eighth Circuit disagreed, concluding that

The district court did not err in admitting the warrant. The warrant is self-authenticating..., both as a public document under seal and as a public document signed by an official (judge, clerk, and sheriff). The warrant states the issuing court found probable cause for arrest and is signed by a judge. As a public record, the warrant is clearly excepted from the hearsay rule. See Fed.R.Evid. 803(8). The warrant is relevant to show the police reasonably believed there was a warrant for Moore's arrest.

My thoughts? First, the Eighth Circuit was correct to conclude that the warrant was admissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 803(8). If Moore were a criminal case, the warrant should have been excluded under Federal Rule of Evidence 803(8)(b), but Moore was a criminal case. Second, however, even if Moore were a criminal case, the warrant could have been admitted. Why? It wasn't being offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. As the EIghth Circuit noted, "[t]he warrant [wa]s relevant to show the police reasonably believed there was a warrant for Moore's arrest." It was not being admitted to prove the truth of the statements contained in the warrant. Therefore, it was not even hearsay and did not need to meet an exception to the rule against hearsay to be admitted.

-CM

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/evidenceprof/2011/07/warrant-8028-moore-v-city-of-desloge-mo-f3d-2011-wl-3189357ca8-mo2011-1.html

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