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.
When the statement itself, or other circumstantial evidence demonstrates the percipiency of a declarant, whether identified or unidentified, this condition of competency is met.View Full Point of Law
Issue. 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?
Held. 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
Discussion. 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.