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State v. Payne

Court of Common Pleas of Delaware, New Castle

May 31, 2017

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
JOSHUA L. PAYNE, Defendant.

          Submitted: March 24, 2017

          Dominic A. Carrera, Jr., Esquire Deputy Attorney General Attorney for the State of Delaware

          Benjamin S. Gifford IV, Esquire Law Office of Benjamin S. Gifford IV Attorney for Defendant

          DECISION AFTER TRIAL

          Alex J. Smalls, Chief Judge.

         The defendant, Joshua L. Payne ("Defendant"), was charged on December 14, 2015 with Failure to Stop at a Stop Sign, in violation of 21 Del. C. § 4164(a), and Driving While Suspended, in violation of 21 Del. C. § 2756(a). Trial was held on February 7, 2017, where the State called as its only witness Officer Brianna Oaddams[1] ("Officer Oaddams") of the Wilmington Police Department. Additionally, during the trial, the State moved for the admission of several documents to which the Defendant objected. At the conclusion of trial, the Court reserved decision, and ordered supplemental briefing on the issue of the documents' admissibility. This is the Court's decision after trial.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On December 14, 2015, while patrolling the area of 5th Street in Wilmington, Delaware, Officer Oaddams observed Defendant driving near the intersection of 5th and Monroe Street. Officer Oaddams further testified that Defendant failed to stop, which was a blatant disregard for the stop sign. Officer Oaddams testified that thereafter she followed Defendant for several blocks and stopped him at 3rd and West Street. Defendant provided Officer Oaddams with his identification, and Officer Oaddams conducted a motor vehicle inquiry through DELJIS; the DELJIS inquiry revealed Defendant's license had been suspended. Defendant was thereafter arrested for Failure to Stop at a Stop Sign and Driving While Suspended.

         A bench trial was held on February 7, 2017, and through the testimony of the officer, the State sought to introduce several documents to establish that the Defendant's license was suspended. These documents, introduced as State's Exhibit 1, consisted of an Affidavit of Mailing, Official Notice of Revocation, and a Certified Driving Record. Defense counsel raised several evidentiary objections to the admission of these documents. Following argument by both parties, the Court conditionally admitted the documents subject to Defense counsel's objections. The Court reserved decision and ordered supplemental briefing on the issue of the documents' admissibility.

         PARTIES' CONTENTIONS

         Defendant contends the affidavit of mailing, official notice of revocation, and certified driving record are inadmissible as hearsay evidence, because the State failed to satisfy the requirements of Delaware Rules of Evidence ("D.R.E.") 803(6) and 902(11) for their admission. Defendant first contends that the documents are hearsay under Rule 803(6), and as such are not admissible unless the State can establish that such records were made at or near the time by and from information transmitted by a person with knowledge and kept in the regular course of business as shown by testimony of a custodian or other qualified witness. Further, Defendant argues the State cannot meet its burden of authentication in the alternative under Rule 902(11), because such section requires a party who seeks to admit the records pursuant to this section "to provide written notice of such intention to all adverse parties." Therefore, Defendant reasons the written declaration-an affidavit sworn on June 28, 2016-must be excluded because the State failed to give the required notice.

         Furthermore, Defendant argues the driving record offered by the State is not properly certified and cannot be admitted pursuant to 21 Del. C. § 2736(e). Defendant concedes the statute allows for the admission of a motor vehicle conviction record into evidence absent the appearance of an employee or agent of the Division of Motor Vehicles, so long as the conviction record has been certified by the Director of Motor Vehicles. However, Defendant contends the certification at the bottom of the driving record is invalid as it fails to comply with the notarial rules of this State. Specifically, Defendant contends no notary public attested to the certification at the bottom of the driving record. Defendant argues the State's failure to obtain a properly certified copy of the driving record undermines the reliability of the document absent witness testimony to its accuracy.

         Because the State allegedly failed to comply with the requirements of 803(6) and 902(11) and allegedly failed to introduce a properly-certified driving record, Defendant argues the documents conditionally entered into evidence as State's Exhibit 1 must be excluded. Furthermore, Defendant argues the only other evidence against him-the testimony of Officer Oaddams-is insufficient to support a conviction of Driving While Suspended. Accordingly, Defendant moves the Court to enter a finding of Not Guilty as to that charge.

         Conversely, the State argues Defendant's reliance on 803(6) and 902(11) for the exclusion of the documents is unfounded, as 21 Del. C. § 2736 specifically provides for the documents' admissibility. It is the State's contention that the affidavit of mailing and official notice of revocation are admissible pursuant to section 2736(c), while the driving record is properly certified and admissible pursuant to section 2736(e). The State also argues, in the alternative, that the proposed exhibits are admissible pursuant to the public records exception of D.R.E. 803(8) and are properly authenticated under the self-authentication rule set forth in D.R.E. 902(4). For these reasons, the State submits the documents were ...


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