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Jones v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, First Division

March 7, 2018



          McMillian, Judge.

         We granted Antavious Jones' interlocutory appeal seeking review of the trial court's order granting the State's motion in limine to introduce a log sheet with handwritten Intoxilyzer 5000 results at his trial on charges of driving under the influence ("DUI"). Because we find that the log sheet was admissible under the business records exception to the hearsay rule, we now affirm.

         "On appeal, we review the trial court's grant of a motion in limine for abuse of discretion." (Citations and punctuation omitted.) State v. Wilkins, 302 Ga. 156, 160 (805 S.E.2d 868) (2017). See also Marchman v. State, 299 Ga. 534, 539 (2) (787 S.E.2d 734) (2016). "An abuse of discretion occurs where a ruling unsupported by any evidence of record or where that ruling misstates or misapplies the relevant law." (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Lewis v. Lewis, 316 Ga.App. 67, 68 (728 S.E.2d 741) (2012).

         The record shows that the State charged Jones in August 2015 with DUI-less safe, DUI per se, and driving without headlights and subsequently filed a motion in limine to introduce a log sheet that included the handwritten results of two Intoxilyzer 5000 tests of Jones's breath conducted at the sheriff's office on the date of his arrest. The State submitted an affidavit stating that the original printout of the test results had been misplaced and argued that the log sheet was admissible under the business and public-records exceptions to the hearsay rule.

         The State's affidavit was provided by an investigator with the Fayette County Solicitor General's Office and former deputy with the Fayette County Sheriff's Office, who was tasked with locating the intoxilyzer printout card once the solicitor's office discovered that the printout was missing from Jones' file. The investigator explained that the Intoxilyzer 5000 used in this case is located at the Fayette County Jail facility. The machine issues test results on a multi-copy form, one of which is given to the defendant, another is given to the arresting officer, and the remaining copies are placed in a file, which is transferred to the clerk's office and ultimately to the solicitor's office. In this case, the printout was not included in the file sent to the clerk's office and the arresting officer had not retained his copy. The investigator retraced every step in this process but was unable to locate the printout in county records. However, the investigator was able to locate a copy of the intoxilyzer log sheet showing Jones' test results. The investigator explained the log is kept next to the intoxilyzer machine at the jail, and the officer conducting the test is required immediately after the tests are completed to record certain information, including the numerical results of the two intoxilyzer tests administered to the defendant. Based on this evidence and after hearing argument from the parties, the trial court granted the State's motion.

         In reaching this decision, the trial court first found that the introduction of the log sheet would not violate the best evidence rule because no evidence existed that the original printout had been lost or destroyed in bad faith. The court then ruled that the log sheet was admissible under the business record exception to the hearsay rule and found no discovery violation to prevent its introduction. However, the trial court stated that it was "mindful that an exception to the hearsay rule is not automatically an exception to the confrontation clause[;]" therefore, the trial court "reserve[d] the right to revisit [its] ruling in the event the State does not introduce as a witness at trial the officer who transcribed the results into the log sheet."

         Jones argues on appeal that the trial court erred in granting the State's motion because the log sheet (1) is not admissible as either a business record or as a public record; (2) is excluded by the best evidence rule; (3) violates Georgia discovery requirements; and (4) violates the rule of completeness.[1] We disagree.

         1. We turn first to Jones' argument that the admission of the log sheet violates the best evidence rule.

         In Georgia, proof of "the contents of a writing, recording, or photograph[ generally requires] the original writing, recording, or photograph[.]" OCGA § 24-10-1002. However, OCGA § 24-10-1004 sets out several exceptions to this general rule, including an exception applicable in this case, where the original cannot be located. OCGA § 24-10-1004 (1) provides that "[t]he original shall not be required and other evidence of the contents of a writing, recording, or photograph shall be admissible if . . . [a]ll originals are lost or have been destroyed, unless the proponent lost or destroyed them in bad faith[.]"

          The original intoxilyzer printouts in this case could not be located even after the investigator conducted a multi-source search, and Jones has not pointed us to any evidence in the record suggesting any bad faith on the part of the State in connection with the missing documents. Under these circumstances, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that admission of the log sheet would not violate the best evidence rule. See Patch v. State, 337 Ga.App. 233, 242-43 (786 S.E.2d 882) (2016). Compare Lumley v. State, 280 Ga.App. 82, 83 (633 S.E.2d 413) (2006) (finding copy of intoxilyzer printout inadmissible under former evidence code, where "the prosecutor apparently made no effort-much less a diligent one-to ascertain the original's whereabouts").

         2. Jones also argues that the business-records exception to the hearsay rule[2]does not apply to the log sheet because (i) the log sheet was prepared and maintained for the purpose of litigation and (ii) the State has insufficiently certified it under OCGA § 24-9-902 (11).

         (a) In order for hearsay to be admissible, it must fall within one of the statutory hearsay exceptions, and the moving party has the burden of establishing that one of the exceptions applies. See Phillips v. State, 275 Ga. 595, 598 (571 S.E.2d 361) (2002). Under Georgia's Evidence Code, a business record is admissible as an exception to the rule barring hearsay if the record was:

(A) made at or near the time of the described acts, events, conditions, opinions, or diagnoses; (B) made by, or from information transmitted by, a person with personal knowledge and a business duty to report; (C) kept in the course of a regularly conducted business activity; and (D) it was the regular practice of that business activity to make the memorandum, report, record, or data compilation, all as shown by the testimony of the custodian or other qualified witness or by ...

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