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State v. Jones

Citation. State v. Jones, 311 Md. 23, 532 A.2d 169, 1987)
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Brief Fact Summary.

Complainant alleged that, during a traffic stop on I-95 in New Jersey, a police officer sexually assaulted her. At trial, another police officer testified to statements he had heard over the CB radio during the time of the incident. The Respondent objected to the admissibility of those statements.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

For a statement to qualify as a present sense impression it must be (1) essentially contemporaneous with the event it describes, and (2) the declarant must speak from personal knowledge of the event. Identification of the declarant, while it might be helpful, is not required.


Complainant was stopped by Trooper Jones (the “Trooper”) while traveling on I-95 through New Jersey. She was driving the car with a Learner’s Permit, and was accompanied by a driver licensed in New York. She alleged that she was required to sit in the police cruiser, at which point the Trooper handcuffed her and digitally penetrated her, releasing her when she protested. She testified that she ran back to the car, told her companion, and that the two attempted to apprehend the police cruiser, but that it took off at a high rate of speed with no lights, and they were not able to catch up. They stopped at an emergency call phone to call the police. At trial, another officer testified that, at the time of the incident, he heard two people who he assumed to be truckers, over the CB radio. One of them said, “Look at the Smokey Bear taking off with no lights at a high rate of speed,” and the other replied, “look at that little car trying to catch up with him.” The Respondent o
bjected to the admissibility of the statements.


Whether the statements made by the two people over the CB radio were admissible under the present sense impression exception to the hearsay rule?
Whether the statement of the second declarant, that the little car “was trying to catch up with” the police cruiser, was an improper statement of opinion?

Whether the testimony passed the standard of relevance for admissibility?

Whether the admission of the statements violated the defendant’s rights under the Confrontation Clause of the United States Constitution?


Yes. The content of the statements show that they were made contemporaneously with the events that they described, and the content also showed that they had personal knowledge of the events that they were presently observing.
No. People speaking without reflection often cast their language as an opinion.

Yes. Relevance must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence, and so the judge must have been able to conclude that it was more likely than not that the events described on the radio related to the events described by the complainant. That threshold was met.

No. The declarants were unavailable as they were unknown, thus satisfying the necessity prong of the test, and the statements showed sufficient indicia of reliability to pass that second prong


A present sense impression must be contemporaneous with the event that it describes so as to dispel the notion that there has been any time for reflective thought. It is this shortness of time that gives the statement the veracity that provides circumstances that cure the problems inherent in hearsay testimony in general. It was clear from their content that the statements in this case were both contemporaneous and made from personal knowledge of the events being perceived.

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