Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Permanent Record: Court of Appeals of Arizona Rejects Authentication Challenge to Uncertified Copies
Similar to their federal counterparts, Arizona Rule of Evidence 902(1) allows for the self-authentication of "Domestic Public Documents That Are Sealed and Signed" while Arizona Rule of Evidence 902(2) allows for the self-authentication of "Domestic Public Documents That Are Not Sealed but Are Signed and Certified." Meanwhile, like its federal counterpart, Arizona Rule of Evidence 901(b)(7) allows for authentication through the following method:
(7) Evidence About Public Records. Evidence that:
(A) a document was recorded or filed in a public office as authorized by law; or
(B) a purported public record or statement is from the office where items of this kind are kept.
So, what's the interplay among these Rules? Consider the recent opinion of the Court of Appeals of Arizona, Division One, in State v. McGuire, 2014 WL 50654 (Ariz.App. Div. 1 2014).
In McGuire, Jeremee McGuire appealed the superior court's revocation of his probation and the resulting prison sentence. At the probation revocation hearing,
The state offered Exhibit 1 into evidence. The violation and presentence investigation reports revealed that McGuire had been arrested on September 28, 2011, and pled guilty on March 5, 2012, to felony charges of making a criminal threat and committing assault likely to cause great bodily harm. The reports also indicated that McGuire's sentencing hearing on those charges was to be held April 3, 2012. The probation officer testified that the sentencing minute entry confirmed that McGuire had been convicted on identical charges on April 3, 2012, but acknowledged that the minute entry itself did not contain the date the convicted offenses were committed. In addition to McGuire's name, all documents in Exhibit 1, including the minute entry, had a matching case number and referenced the same California Penal Code sections under which McGuire had been charged and pled guilty.
McGuire, in turn, objected "that the printed document did not appear to be a certified copy." The State, however, "responded that all documents in Exhibit 1 were 'produced and distributed in accordance with the normal process of the adult probation department for probationers that are supervised out of state under courtesy supervision.'" The judge overruled McGuire's objection, and this ruling formed the partial basis for his appeal.
In rejecting McGuire's appeal, the Court of Appeals of Arizona noted that McGuire was correct that Exhibit 1 was not a certified copy, meaning that it failed to qualify for self-authentication under Arizona Rule of Evidence 902(2). In other words, the State had to produce extrinsic evidence of authenticity. But, according to the appellate court, that is exactly what the State did:
In this case, the state offered an uncertified copy of a sentencing minute entry purporting to show that McGuire was convicted of two felonies in California in violation of Condition 1. McGuire's probation officer testified that the state of California had provided her with the copy of the sentencing minute entry through her restricted access to ICOTS, and that the copy proved McGuire's convictions. The lack of certification means that the document was not self-authenticating; it does not mean that the document was necessarily inadmissible. The violation and presentence investigation reports (to which McGuire did not object) showed that McGuire was arrested and pled guilty to identical charges to those indicated on the sentencing minute entry while he was on probation. Further, the sentencing hearing date referenced in the violation and presentence investigation reports matched the date on the sentencing minute entry, and all documents in Exhibit 1, including the uncertified minute entry, bore McGuire's name in conjunction with an identical case number. Finally, McGuire himself testified that he had been arrested and convicted while on probation in this case.
Therefore, Exhibit 1 was properly authenticated under Arizona Rule of Evidence 901(b)(7). In other words, a certified copy of a public record is self-authenticating under Arizona Rule of Evidence 902(2) while a uncertified copy can be authenticated with extrinsic evidence sufficient to satisfy Arizona Rule of Evidence 901(b)(7).