State v. Lauren
CRJ335 – Laws of Evidence
Colorado State University Global
THE CASE – State v. Lauren
Ben was driving a rental car when he was pulled over by Officer Dan. Ben was going 70 miles an hour in a 65 mile an hour zone when he was stopped. While stopped, Ben consented to a search of the vehicle. During the search, Officer Dan found what appeared to be drugs in the center console of the vehicle. Ben was immediately arrested and taken to the police station. Officer Dan read Ben his Miranda rights, which Ben waived. Ben informed Officer Dan that the drugs were not his and that he was driving the car for a friend of his, Lauren. He had been on his way to see her when Officer Dan stopped him. Ben told Officer Dan that the drugs belonged to Lauren. In an attempt to avoid criminal charges, Ben continued to cooperate with police and agreed to set up a meeting with Lauren. Once Lauren got into the car with Ben, Officer Dan began to approach the car. When Lauren saw him she quickly ran from the car. She ran two blocks, knocking over a pedestrian, Pete, before climbing over a fence. Lauren was found at her residence and was presented with a warrant for her arrest. Lauren was presented in a lineup and identified by Pete, the pedestrian she had knocked over. Both Ben and Lauren were charged.
Some evidentiary issues that will probably rise out of this case could follow along the lines of relevance and authenticity of evidence and qualifications of expert testimony. It is also possible that issues will arise from the witness testimony.
With regard to the heroin evidence in this case, it goes without question that it would need to be tested and proven that it is, in fact, heroin. This would mean that the substance would need to be tested by either a lab used by Officer Dan’s law enforcement agency, or sent out to a state agency/laboratory to determine if it is a controlled substance as categorized by the U.S.C. Controlled Substances Act. There are two ways of testing the substance found in Ben’s car. The first method of testing is a presumptive test using a colorimetric test kit or a handheld instrument to analyze the sample. This test is presumptive only and can help determine if a substance could be illegal (Rodriquez, Lothridge, & Ring, 2013). After this test, a sample would be sent to a certified lab to be scientifically tested. During this process, particles of the substance are identified and then labeled (Rodriquez, Lothridge, & Ring, 2013). This testing procedure is called confirmatory testing, and if the results do show that the substance is heroin then Officer Ben’s arrest and investigation can continue. At trial, the lab technicians report and testimony could be entered into evidence. Federal Rule of Evidence 702, Testimony by an Expert Witness, would rule over the lab technician’s report and testimony to the fact that the substance found in Ben’s car was heroin. This would be supporting evidence, giving credibility to Officer Dan’s arrest of Ben. Additionally, FRE 401(a)(b), Test for Relevant Evidence and FRE 901(a), Authenticating or Identifying Evidence, supports why Dan followed through in the manner that he did, satisfying the requirement of authenticating an item of evidence.
Ben agreed to assist Officer Dan, in hopes of avoiding criminal charges. He waived his Miranda rights and agreed to set up a meeting with Lauren. Once Lauren got into the car with Ben, Officer Dan approached the car with the intent of arresting Lauren, but Lauren saw the officer approaching and ran. During her escape, Lauren ran into Pete, a passerby, knocking him to the ground; she kept running, hopped a fence and disappeared. Pete testified that he heard Lauren say, “I can’t get busted for this, this has been foolproof for so long!” Pete also testified that she looked like she was running from police. These statements are crucial in establishing Laurens intent to flee. Pete’s is also a lay person, so his testimony would be covered by FRE 701(a)(b)(c). His testimony is rationally based on his perception of events, and is not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge within the scope of Rule 702 (Opinion Testimony by Lay Witness, 2011). Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(1)(A), protects Pete’s statements from being considered hearsay due to FRE 701.
In People v. Veren, 140 P.3d 131 (Colo. App. 2005) it was determined that a person may testify as a lay witness only if his or her opinions or inferences do not require any specialized knowledge and could be reached by any ordinary person. To determine whether an opinion is one “which could be reached by any ordinary person”, courts consider whether ordinary citizens can be expected to know or to have certain experiences. Pete is not the only person in the world to have been knocked over by a fleeing suspect. The fact that Pete was able to hear statements made by Lauren and he was able to figure she was running from police, would suggest that he would have enough time to get a decent look at Lauren and to positively identify her.
Detective Marilyn’s testimony is vital in establishing patterns of typical drug dealer activity and behavior. Detective Marilyn’s 20 years of experience would qualify her as an expert witness and based on her training and experience. Federal Rule of Evidence 702, Testimony by Expert Witness, as well as 703, Bases of Opinion of Expert Testimony would cover Detective Marilyn’s testimony. Establishing typical drug dealer and drug related activities paints a clearer picture of Laurens and Ben’s actions during this case, how unaware parties can be used to assist high level drug dealers in moving drugs, and supporting the reason why Laurens bank account shows random cash deposits.
United States v. Webb, 139 F.3d 1390 (11th Cir. 1998), involved the use of expert testimony explaining patterns that drug dealers follow when they engage in illegal acts involving narcotics. In Webb, a drug dealer was arrested, and, upon the search of his vehicle, a firearm was found in the engine bay of his vehicle. Mr. Webb argued he did not know the gun was there and that it wasn’t his. The testimony of the expert witness elaborated on patterns of this kind of behavior. The expert explained that individuals will conceal weapons in the engine bay because they know that the police seldom look there; people typically conceal weapons in their cars so that the weapons are easily accessible, and people will store weapons in the engine bay rather than the interior compartments because, if discovered, it is easier to claim that they did not know about the weapon. Webb was convicted based on this expert’s testimony, United States v. Webb, 139 F.3d 1390 (11th Cir. 1998).
Josh, Laurens estranged husband, was brought in to testify on Lauren’s drug history. Josh’s testimony would be used by the prosecution to establish prior history; Because he is her estranged husband, his testimony would be refuted by the defense on the grounds that he has no reliable or honest knowledge of Lauren. Federal Rule of Evidence 501, Privilege in General, could be brought up, as well as spousal privilege, regarding Laurens prior history of drug use. Josh’s statements could be essential in painting a very negative picture of Lauren to the courts but only if his testimony is permitted.
Trammel v. United States 1979 raised the issue of whether a defendant may invoke the privilege against adverse spousal testimony in order to exclude the voluntary testimony of his wife? Mr. Trammel was indicted for importing heroin and for conspiracy to import heroin. His wife, Ms. Trammel was arrested, but was considered an unindicted co-conspirator. Ms. Trammell agreed to cooperate with the Government and testify against her husband. Mr. Trammel stated to the court that he was going to claim a privilege to prevent his wife from testifying against him. The court ruled that Ms. Trammel could testify to any act she saw during her marriage, Trammel v. United States, 445 U.S. 40, 100 S. Ct. 906, 63 L. Ed. 2d 186, 1980 U.S. LEXIS 84, 5 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. (Callaghan) 737 (U.S. Feb. 27, 1980).
Lauren’s defense team attempted to show that Lauren was an upstanding citizen in her community and would often volunteer her time at the local YMCA. Testimony provided by the youth leader at the YMCA was called in by the defense. The prosecution could argue this has no relevance in this case based on the fact that many people who appear to be good citizens commit crimes. Several rules of evidence can be used in regard to this testimony being allowed: Federal Rule of Evidence 405, Methods of Proving Character, Rule 701, Opinion Testimony by Lay Witnesses, and Rule 803, Exceptions to the Rule Against Hearsay-Regardless of Whether the Declarant is Available as a Witness.
In People v. Erickson, 883 P.2d 511 (Colo. App. 1994), evidence in the form of reputation or opinion concerning a witness’ character for truthfulness may be introduced to support the credibility of the person when the witness’ character for truthfulness has been attacked; however, such testimony must be based on opinion held generally in a broad community.
The rental car documents that were found in the car established that Ben was legally responsible for the vehicle. Additionally, the fact that the car is rented in Ben’s name and not Lauren’s could cast doubt on Lauren being involved in the distribution of drugs. Federal Rule of Evidence 401, Test for Relevant Evidence can be used to help the defense refute claims by the prosecution. The case really revolves around the rental car and the heroin that was discovered inside. The agreement with the car rental agency helps to authenticate that Ben was the renter of the car, in which the drugs were found. Federal Rule of Evidence 901, Authenticating or Identifying Evidence, could prove vital to the case. Contacting and getting the original signed agreement from the rental car agency would also be helpful to Laurens case. If the rental car agency has CCTV footage of Ben signing the agreement, it could serve as an added advantage.
In People in Interest of M.S.H., 656 P.2d 1294 (Colo. 1983), it was found that tests for determining relevance of evidence is that such evidence must only be connected in some manner with either the perpetrator, the victim, or the crime. Based on this, the evidence of the documents would be admissible.
This case would be very interesting to attend. There would definitely be a lot of back and forth with arguments in regard to Laurens character and credibility. Additionally, many decisions could be determined by the ruling judge. The Federal Rules of Evidence in this case would definitely be challenged by both parties and a great deal of time would need to be put into the final determinations.
Federal Rule of Evidence 401, Test for Relevant Evidence
Federal Rule of Evidence 405, Methods of Proving Character
Federal Rule of Evidence 501, Privilege in General
Federal Rule of Evidence 613, Witness’s Prior Statement
Federal Rule of Evidence 701, Opinion Testimony by Lay Witnesses
Federal Rule of Evidence 702, Testimony by Expert Witnesses
Federal Rule of Evidence 703, Bases of Opinion of Expert Testimony
Federal Rule of Evidence 801, Exclusions from Hearsay
Federal Rule of Evidence 901, Authenticating or Identifying Evidence
Federal Rule of Evidence 902, Evidence that is Self-Authenticating
People in Interest of M.S.H., 656 P.2d 1294 (Colo. 1983)
People v. Erickson, 883 P.2d 511 (Colo. App. 1994)
People v. Veren, 140 P.3d 131 (Colo. App. 2005)
Rodriguez-Cruz, S., Lothridge, K., & Ring, J. (2013). Forensic Drug Chemistry. Retrieved March 8, 2020, from http://www.forensicsciencesimplified.org/drugs/how.html
Trammel v. United States, 445 U.S. 40, 100 S. Ct. 906, 63 L. Ed. 2d 186, 1980 U.S. LEXIS 84, 5 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. (Callaghan) 737 (U.S. Feb. 27, 1980)
United States v. Webb, 139 F.3d 1390 (11th Cir. 1998)