Hinojos-Mendoza v. People, No. 05SC881.

Docket NºNo. 05SC881.
Citation169 P.3d 662
Case DateSeptember 10, 2007
CourtSupreme Court of Colorado
169 P.3d 662
Oscar HINOJOS-MENDOZA, Petitioner
v.
The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Respondent.
No. 05SC881.
Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc.
September 10, 2007.
Rehearing Denied November 5, 2007.*

[169 P.3d 664]

Douglas K. Wilson, Colorado State Public Defender, Alan Kratz, Deputy State Public Defender, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Petitioner.

John W. Suthers, Attorney General, Matthew D. Grove, Assistant Attorney General, Appellate Division, Criminal Justice Section, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Respondent.

Justice RICE delivered the Opinion of the Court.


In this case we must decide the constitutionality of section 16-3-309(5), C.R.S. (2006),1 in light of the United States Supreme Court's decision in Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 124 S.Ct. 1354, 158 L.Ed.2d 177 (2004). The Petitioner, Oscar Hinojos-Mendoza, argued in the court of appeals that Crawford rendered section 16-3-309(5) facially unconstitutional, and that the statute is unconstitutional as applied to him. The court of appeals declined to address the facial and as-applied challenges because Hinojos-Mendoza did not raise them in the trial court, but did hold that the lab report in this case is nontestimonial hearsay under Crawford. People v. Hinojos-Mendoza, 140 P.3d 30, 37 (Colo.App.2005). The court of appeals further held that the trial court did not err in admitting the lab report without the testimony of its author. Id. at 38. We granted certiorari to review the court of appeals' decision.2 We now reverse in part and affirm in part on other grounds.

I. Factual and Procedural History

Hinojos-Mendoza was convicted of unlawful possession with intent to distribute a schedule II controlled substance, cocaine (more than one thousand grams),3 and sentenced to 16 years in the Department of Corrections. At Hinojos-Mendoza's trial, the People introduced into evidence a Colorado Bureau of Investigation lab report that identifies the substance found in Hinojos-Mendoza's vehicle to be cocaine. The lab report lists Hinojos-Mendoza's name under a section entitled "suspect(s)." The report describes the exhibit at issue as a "tan tape wrapped block containing 1004.5 grams of compressed white powder." Under the "results" section, the report states: "[a]nalysis disclosed the presence of cocaine, schedule II."

The People introduced the lab report into evidence without calling as a witness the technician who prepared the report. Defense counsel objected to the admission of the report on general hearsay grounds. The trial court asked defense counsel whether prior to trial he had requested that the lab technician appear, and whether he was aware that pursuant to section 16-3-309(5) the lab report could be admitted into evidence without the testimony of the technician. Defense counsel stated he had not requested the lab technician's presence because he was unaware of the statute. The trial court consequently

169 P.3d 665

overruled the objection and admitted the report pursuant to section 16-3-309(5).

Subsequent to Hinojos-Mendoza's trial but while his direct appeal was pending, the United States Supreme Court decided Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36, 124 S.Ct. 1354, 158 L.Ed.2d 177 (2004). On appeal, Hinojos-Mendoza argued that section 16-3-309(5) is facially unconstitutional post-Crawford and unconstitutional as it was applied in his case. The court of appeals declined to address Hinojos-Mendoza's constitutional challenges to the statute because he had not raised those challenges in the trial court. Hinojos-Mendoza, 140 P.3d at 35. The court of appeals did hold, however, that the lab report is nontestimonial hearsay under Crawford. Id. at 37, 124 S.Ct. 1354. The court therefore held the trial court did not err in admitting the lab report. Id. at 38, 124 S.Ct. 1354. We granted certiorari, and now reverse in part and affirm in part on other grounds.

II. Analysis

The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees every criminal defendant the right "to be confronted with the witnesses against him." The Sixth Amendment right to confrontation applies to state as well as federal prosecutions. Pointer v. Texas, 380 U.S. 400, 406, 85 S.Ct. 1065, 13 L.Ed.2d 923 (1965). The Colorado Constitution also provides that "the accused shall have the right . . . to meet the witnesses against him face to face." Colo. Const. art. II, § 16. This right to confrontation is a fundamental constitutional right. People v. Fry, 92 P.3d 970, 975 (Colo.2004).

The lab report at issue in this case was admitted into evidence without the testimony of the lab technician who prepared the report, pursuant to section 16-3-309(5), which states in relevant part:

Any report or copy thereof . . . of the criminalistics laboratory shall be received in evidence in any court . . . in the same manner and with the same force and effect as if the employee or technician of the criminalistics laboratory who accomplished the requested analysis, comparison, or identification had testified in person. Any party may request that such employee or technician testify in person at a criminal trial on behalf of the state before a jury or to the court, by notifying the witness and other party at least ten days before the date of such criminal trial.

In 2003, we upheld the facial constitutionality of section 16-3-309(5), concluding that the statute does not violate the right to confrontation guaranteed by the United States and Colorado Constitutions. People v. Mojica-Simental, 73 P.3d 15 (Colo.2003). We explained in Mojica-Simental that while the right to confront one's accusers is a fundamental constitutional right, it is not without limit. Id. at 20. We held that reasonable preconditions on the exercise of a fundamental right do not abridge that right. Id. We concluded that the burden placed on the defendant by section 16-3-309(5) — to request the presence of the person who prepared the report prior to trial — was minimal and did not render the statute facially unconstitutional. Id.

In 2004, the United States Supreme Court altered its Confrontation Clause jurisprudence in Crawford. The Court held that admission of testimonial statements absent the unavailability of the declarant and a prior opportunity for cross-examination by the defendant violates a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confrontation. 541 U.S. at 68, 124 S.Ct. 1354; People v. Vigil, 127 P.3d 916, 921 (Colo.2006). We subsequently adopted the Crawford test as the appropriate inquiry for the admission of testimonial hearsay under Colorado's Confrontation Clause. Compan v. People, 121 P.3d 876, 884 (Colo.2005); Fry, 92 P.3d at 976.

Hinojos-Mendoza urges us to reconsider the facial constitutionality of section 16-3-309(5) in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Crawford. Hinojos-Mendoza argues that lab reports are testimonial under Crawford, and therefore that section 16-3-309(5) is facially unconstitutional. Hinojos-Mendoza also argues that section 16-3-309(5) is unconstitutional as applied to him. Although the court of appeals did not address these constitutional challenges to the statute, it ruled that the lab report in this case is nontestimonial and therefore Crawford did

169 P.3d 666

not require its exclusion. Hinojos-Mendoza, 140 P.3d at 37. We therefore begin our analysis by reviewing the court of appeals' holding that the lab report is nontestimonial, and we reverse.

A. Laboratory Report is Testimonial

One of the many difficult questions that courts have had to grapple with in the wake of Crawford is whether laboratory reports, such as the one at issue in this case, qualify as "testimonial" statements subject to Crawford's requirements for admissibility. The court of appeals concluded that the lab report is nontestimonial, and thus does not implicate Crawford. Hinojos-Mendoza, 140 P.3d at 37. The court of appeals based its analysis in part on its holding that a lab report qualifies as a business record under the Colorado rules of evidence. Id. The court further noted that Hinojos-Mendoza did not dispute at trial that the substance was cocaine but only disputed the weight of the cocaine. Id. Because weighing an incoming substance is "a routine laboratory procedure," the technician who prepared the report would "merely have authenticated the document." Id. (internal quotation omitted). Finally, the court of appeals distinguished cases holding similar lab reports to be testimonial by finding that the report in this case is not an affidavit, was not "prepared at the express direction of the prosecutor for the purpose of litigation," and contains "no directly accusatorial statements against [Hinojos-Mendoza]." Id. We disagree.

Some state courts have held that laboratory reports constitute nontestimonial hearsay after Crawford. See, e.g., Hinojos-Mendoza, 140 P.3d at 36 (collecting cases); Perkins v. State, 897 So.2d 457, 462-65 (Ala. Crim.App.2004) (autopsy report); People v. Johnson, 121 Cal.App.4th 1409, 18 Cal. Rptr.3d 230, 233 (2004) (lab report analyzing a rock of cocaine); Commonwealth v. Verde, 444 Mass. 279, 827 N.E.2d 701, 706 (2005) (drug certificate); State v. Dedman, 136 N.M. 561, 102 P.3d 628, 635-36 (2004) (blood alcohol report). Many of these courts based their conclusion on dictum in Crawford which suggested that, historically, business records fall outside the scope of testimonial hearsay. 541 U.S. at 56, 124 S.Ct. 1354 ("Most of the hearsay exceptions [in 1791] covered statements that by their nature were not testimonial — for example, business records or statements in furtherance of a conspiracy."); Hinojos-Mendoza, 140 P.3d at 36; Verde, 827 N.E.2d at 706.

These decisions, as well as the court of appeals' opinion in this case, erroneously focus on the reliability of the reports and whether the reports fall within the business or public records hearsay exceptions. See, e.g., Perkins, 897 So.2d at 464 (autopsy report nontestimonial because it fell under a firmly rooted...

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116 practice notes
  • State v. Jackson, Case No. 2012-CA-20
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • November 29, 2012
    ...reason why he cannot similarly bePage 20compelled to exercise his Confrontation Clause rights before trial. See Hinojos-Mendoza v. People, 169 P.3d 662, 670 (Colo.2007) (discussing and approving Colorado's notice-and-demand provision). Today's decision will not disrupt criminal prosecutions......
  • Deblase v. State, CR-14-0482
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • November 16, 2018
    ...States v. Williams, 403 F.App'x 707 (3d Cir. 2010) (not selected for publication in the Federal Reporter ); Hinojos-Mendoza v. People, 169 P.3d 662, 669-70 (Colo. 2007) ; Belden v. State, 73 P.3d 1041, 1086 (Wyo. 2003) ; Commonwealth v. Myers, 82 Mass. App. Ct. 172, 179-85, 971 N.E.2d 815, ......
  • Fuentes-Espinoza v. People, Supreme Court Case No. 13SC128
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • October 10, 2017
    ...claims when we believe that doing so would best serve the goals of efficiency and judicial economy. See, e.g., Hinojos-Mendoza v. People, 169 P.3d 662, 667 (Colo. 2007) ; People v. Wiedemer, 852 P.2d 424, 433 n.9 (Colo. 1993). Because we believe that reviewing Fuentes-Espinoza's unpreserved......
  • State v. Belvin, No. SC06-593.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • May 1, 2008
    ...a right to do under the statute. In this regard, I would follow the decision of the Colorado Supreme Court in Hinojos-Mendoza v. People, 169 P.3d 662 (Colo.2007). Crawford has undeniably redefined Confrontation Clause jurisprudence. I agree with the majority that our analysis should first b......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
116 cases
  • State v. Jackson, Case No. 2012-CA-20
    • United States
    • United States Court of Appeals (Ohio)
    • November 29, 2012
    ...reason why he cannot similarly bePage 20compelled to exercise his Confrontation Clause rights before trial. See Hinojos-Mendoza v. People, 169 P.3d 662, 670 (Colo.2007) (discussing and approving Colorado's notice-and-demand provision). Today's decision will not disrupt criminal prosecutions......
  • Deblase v. State, CR-14-0482
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • November 16, 2018
    ...States v. Williams, 403 F.App'x 707 (3d Cir. 2010) (not selected for publication in the Federal Reporter ); Hinojos-Mendoza v. People, 169 P.3d 662, 669-70 (Colo. 2007) ; Belden v. State, 73 P.3d 1041, 1086 (Wyo. 2003) ; Commonwealth v. Myers, 82 Mass. App. Ct. 172, 179-85, 971 N.E.2d 815, ......
  • Fuentes-Espinoza v. People, Supreme Court Case No. 13SC128
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • October 10, 2017
    ...claims when we believe that doing so would best serve the goals of efficiency and judicial economy. See, e.g., Hinojos-Mendoza v. People, 169 P.3d 662, 667 (Colo. 2007) ; People v. Wiedemer, 852 P.2d 424, 433 n.9 (Colo. 1993). Because we believe that reviewing Fuentes-Espinoza's unpreserved......
  • State v. Belvin, No. SC06-593.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • May 1, 2008
    ...a right to do under the statute. In this regard, I would follow the decision of the Colorado Supreme Court in Hinojos-Mendoza v. People, 169 P.3d 662 (Colo.2007). Crawford has undeniably redefined Confrontation Clause jurisprudence. I agree with the majority that our analysis should first b......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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