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Home » Cases of Note » Hite v. State – A11A2008: The Finer Points of the Hearsay Rule: when a affidavit is not testimonial and when law enforcement is regular business
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Hite v. State – A11A2008: The Finer Points of the Hearsay Rule: when a affidavit is not testimonial and when law enforcement is regular business

On February 23, 2008, Gary Todd Hite was arrested at approximately 3:30 a.m for DUI at a Georgia State Patrol roadblock. Hite motioned to suppress evidence, claiming the roadblock was unconstitutional. The trial court denied Hite’s motion and the Court affirmed their decision. On appeal, Hite did not dispute testimony, and when appealing a denial of a motion to suppress, “’when evidence is uncontroverted and no question of witness credibility is presented, the trial court’s application of the law to undisputed facts is subject to de novo appellate review’” Hammont v. State, 309 Ga. App. 395, 396 (710 Se2d 598) (2011).

In accordance with LaFontaine v. State, 269 Ga. 251, 253 (3) (497 SE2d 367) (1998), a trial court must consider five factors in determining whether a roadblock is lawful. Hite’s appeal concerns the first factor: “whether the State demonstrated that ‘the decision to implement the roadblock was made by supervisory personnel rather than the officers in the field’ Id. At 253 (3), which has been expanded to require that “’supervisors had a legitimate purpose’” Baker v. State, Ga. App. 695, 702 (1) (556 SE2d 50) (2001). To establish a primary purpose, the State introduced a certified copy of a “Department of Public Safety Supervisor Initiation of a Roadblock Approval Form” dated February 23, 2008, signed by a supervisor, Jeff Puckett, who is authorized to initiate roadblocks. The stated purposes were to screen for seatbelt compliance and driver impairment. Hite contends that 1.) since Puckett did not testify, the constitutionality of the roadblock cannot be discerned, because he was deprived the opportunity to cross-examine the supervisor regarding the reasons for the roadblock, and 2.) that the state failed to establish the admissibility of the Roadblock Form under the business records exception to the hearsay rule (O.C.G.A. 24-3-14).

Regarding 1.), when ruling on Baker, the Court established that the supervising officer does not have to testify in person to establish the purpose behind a roadblock, but rather “’the state must present some admissible evidence, testimonial or written, of the supervisor’s purpose, i.e., purpose at the ‘programmatic level.’”

For 2.), Hite bases his argument on the fact that Trooper Christian, the arresting officer, and primary witness, did not establish that the Roadblock Form was made in the state patrol’s regular course of business. Furthermore, Hite notes that the testifying officer was not the “keeper of the records and thus lacked personal knowledge of the information necessary to lay the evidentiary foundation.” It has been well-established by Mealor v. State, 223 Ga. App. 193, 194 (2) (504 SE2d 29) (1998), that a witness establishing the credibility of a document may not need to be the custodian of that document. Also, Christian testified that Puckett prepares a Roadblock Form for every roadblock they initiate and that the forms were completed around the time of the roadblock, either before or shortly thereafter. Finally, to make clear that presenting a Roadblock Form does not violate the Confrontation Clause, the Court, bolstered by the decision in Bullcoming v. New Mexico __U.S.__(131 SC 2705) (2011), contended that any document not created for the express purpose of a criminal investigation or prosecution and devoid of the narrative is not subject to the Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution, therefore the Roadblock Form presented in the case in question is admissible.