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S. Huband, Esq.
S. Huband, Esq., Attorney
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Prosecutor want to show that defendant was at a certain hotel

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Prosecutor want to show that defendant was at a certain hotel on a certain date. Investigators went to the hotel and requested copies of registration records under the defendant's name. Manager at hotel searched the chain's central reservation computer and printed a copy of the reservation/confirmation. No registration records were printed showing that the defendant actually checked-in.

My question is if this reservation slip is admissible as evidence that the defendant stayed at the hotel?
Submitted: 9 months ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  S. Huband, Esq. replied 9 months ago.
Thank you for the opportunity to assist you.

Q) Is this reservation slip admissible as evidence that the defendant stayed at the hotel?

Possibly. There are two evidentiary issues here: relevance (and the sub-issue of foundation) and hearsay.

Relevance
In order for evidence to be admitted, it must be relevant. Relevant evidence is any evidence that tends to prove or disprove a fact that is in controversy.

In this case, it appears that one of the factual issues is whether or not the defendant was at the hotel. These records are probably relevant because they show that the defendant made a reservation at the hotel.

While the records may not show the defendant actually checked IN to the hotel, they still are likely probative as to whether or not the defendant was at the hotel. After all, they tend to show the defendant, at least at some point, had the intention of being at the hotel.

Speaking of the issue of the defendant's name, there is a sub-issue here: foundation. You could object to the record, saying that someone with the defendant's NAME made a reservation, but unless the prosecutor can show that actual someone was the defendant him/herself who made the reservation, then the record is not relevant. This might work if the name is "XXXXX XXXXX" or "XXXXX XXXXX" etc. If it's a less common name, the judge may just bypass this objection completely.

Hearsay
Unless properly authenticated at trial, these documents are hearsay and should not be admitted into evidence. Hearsay is a statement made by an out of court declarant which is offered in court for the truth of the matter asserted.

The truth of the matter is what the records purport to show: that the defendant made a reservation at a particular hotel. Someone made this record out of court. If the record is offered in court for the truth of the matter, it's hearsay.

The exception to the hearsay rule that may apply here is the business records exception. A business record will be admitted in court for the truth of the matters asserted therein when the record is properly authenticated.

There are certain rules, which vary from state to state, that the proponent of the evidence must observe and comply with in order to authenticate a business record. For example, the record must have been made in the regular course of business; it must be a record that is routinely made and not one that was made especially for a certain person or event.

The record must also made at or very near the time of the event. So, say the defendant called in and said, "I'd like a reservation at your motel!" If the record of that conversation, transmittal of a credit card number to reserve the room, etc., is made at or near the time of the call, that's probably good enough.

Finally, a person who is the custodian of the record should appear in court with the appropriate record or records and verify for the judge or jury that the records were made in the normal course of business and at or near the time of the event. The custodian might be a manager of a certain hotel, or a bookkeeper, etc.

I hope my response has been helpful. If you have follow-up questions or concerns on this topic, please ask. Otherwise, please rate my answer positively so that I can receive credit for my work. Doing so will NOT cost you any additional fee.

Take care,
Shuband
S. Huband, Esq., Attorney
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 1002
Experience: Experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.
S. Huband, Esq. and 13 other Criminal Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 9 months ago.

Thank you. The reservation in question was made online through the hotel chain's central reservation system which is in Canada (Chain is based in Canada and has only one US hotel). Investigators talked to the Sales Manager at the US hotel.


 


The record is definitely from the central reservation system because a record of another stay, which was reserved directly from the US hotel, was not located.


 


Is the sales manager a custodian of the record since it was not made at his hotel and is not stored at his hotel? And in fact was made and stored outside the US.


 


Just a side note there was not a warrant in this situation, agents just walked in and asked for the records.

Expert:  S. Huband, Esq. replied 9 months ago.
Thank you for the update. I'm on the way to court, but I'll respond to your update as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience.

Shuband
Expert:  S. Huband, Esq. replied 9 months ago.
Thanks again for your patience. I'm glad to have been of help so far.

Q) Is the sales manager a custodian of the record since it was not made at his hotel and is not stored at his hotel?

Probably not, unless the sales manager is the person who normally makes and retains the sorts of records that will be in court.

Q) There was not a warrant in this situation, agents just walked in and asked for the records.

No warrant is required if the person who handed over the records agreed to do so voluntarily. If that person had said, "Nope, no records for you detective!" then the detective would have been required to obtain a search warrant. Even if the detective had a search warrant, however, that would not change the admissibility (or lack thereof) of the records in court.

I hope my responses have been helpful. If you have follow-up questions or concerns on this topic, please ask. Otherwise, please rate my answer positively so that I can receive credit for my work. Doing so will NOT cost you any additional fee.

Take care,
Shuband
Customer: replied 9 months ago.
Thank you. So does the Canadian aspect have any bearing? Would the custodian be someone who works at the central reservation system for their chain?
Expert:  S. Huband, Esq. replied 9 months ago.
Thanks for the update.

Q) Does the Canadian aspect have any bearing?

Only that the prosecutor will have to get a custodian of records in court. If that person is in Canada, that's quite an expense for the prosecutor to bear. I wonder (rhetorically) if all that expense is worth it to the tax payers?

Q) Would the custodian be someone who works at the central reservation system for their chain?

Possibly. The custodian is the keeper of the records. If that person works in Canada, so be it.

Thanks again,
Shuband
S. Huband, Esq., Attorney
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 1002
Experience: Experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.
S. Huband, Esq. and 13 other Criminal Law Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  S. Huband, Esq. replied 9 months ago.
Hello,

I was notified that you rated the answer I gave positively and that you generously applied a bonus payment for my efforts. Thank you so much. I am very pleased and gratified that I was able to help you. I sincerely XXXXX XXXXX matter(s) we discussed turn out well for you.

Please ask for me in the future if you have additional questions or concerns. Again, thank you very much for the opportunity to assist you.

Take care,
Shuband

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