EvidenceProf Blog

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

Monday, December 31, 2012

It's in My Report: Court of Appeals of Utah Reverses Receiving Stolen Property Report Based on Improper Admission of Incident Report

Similar to its federal counterpartUtah Rule of Evidence 803(8) provides an exception to the rule against hearsay for

A record or statement of a public office if:  

(A)   it sets out:

(i) the office’s activities;  

(ii) a matter observed while under a legal duty to report, but not including, in a criminal case, a matter observed by law-enforcement personnel; or  

(iii) in a civil case or against the government in a criminal case, factual findings from a legally authorized investigation; and  

(B) neither the source of information nor other circumstances indicate a lack of trustworthiness.

What this means is that, pursuant to Utah Rule of Evidence 803(8)(A)(ii), a police or incident report is not admissible at a criminal trial. And what that means is that the defendant in State v. Gonzalez-Camargo, 2012 WL 6720459 (Utah App. 2012), was entitled to a new trial.

In Gonzalez-Camargo, Fernando Gonzalez-Camargo was convicted of possession of methamphetamine and receiving stolen property. To prove that Gonzalez-Camargo committed the latter crime, the State offered evidence that a computer recovered from a bedroom in an apartment in which he and others resided

had been stolen. Detective Kim Ellis of the Utah State University police relied on an incident report to confirm that the make, model, and serial number of the computer matched a laptop reported missing from [Utah State U]niversity in August 2009. Although Gonzalez–Camargo objected to the testimony as hearsay, the trial court admitted the evidence contained in the incident report as a business record.

After he was convicted, Gonzalez-Camargo appealed, claiming, inter alia, that the incident report was inadmissible hearsay and that it could not be admitted pursuant to Utah Rule of Evidence 803(8)(A)(ii). In response, 

The State concede[d] that the admission of the incident report was prejudicial error. See...State v. Bertul, 664 P.2d 1181, 1184 (Utah 1983) ("Police records of routine matters are admissible ... such as the day a crime was reported....On the other hand, police reports containing non-routine information as to which the memory, perception, or motivation of the reporter may raise a serious question of reliability, are inadmissible."...; State v. Morrell, 803 P.2d 292, 298 (Utah Ct .App.1990) (stating the general rule that "[p]olice reports are not eligible for admission" under the business or public records exceptions of rule 803 of the Utah Rules of Evidence).

Accordingly, the court "reverse[d] Gonzalez–Camargo's conviction of receiving stolen property and remand for a new trial on that charge."



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