1. United States v. Oates, (1977); pg. 331, briefed 2/11/96
Prepared by Roger Martin (http://people.qualcomm.com/rmartin/)

2. Facts: Oates was arrested for heroin possession, and at the time of arrest, was carrying a “white powdery substance.” The U.S. Customs Service chemist prepared a lab report on the powder which indicated that it was indeed heroin.

3. Procedural Posture: At trial, the chemist was suddenly sick on the day he was to testify, and so another chemist testified in his place to interpret the report. However, the trial court refused to allow the actual report in since the preparer was not available, and rule 803(8)(B) excludes public records prepared by law enforcement personnel from being used against criminal defendants.

4. Issue: Whether the report is properly admissible under the 803(8) exception for public records, given that this is a criminal trial.

5. Holding: No.

6. Reasoning: The chemist is a law enforcement person under 803(8)(B) because he is an integral part of the prosecution effort. The report was a “factual finding” which was the product of an “investigation” under 803(8)(C). The legislative intent clearly and unequivocally indicates that it was their intention to absolutely exclude all public records made by law enforcement officials from use against the defendant in a criminal trial. Otherwise, the defendant would lose the important right of cross-examination and confrontation of the witnesses against him. It does not matter that the witness was unavailable, or that the report might technically qualify as a business record under 803(6) because the legislative intent is so clear that they intended the exclusion to be absolute.