Skip to content
Name: People v. Stanphill
Case #: C056038
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 01/14/2009

(A victim’s hearsay statement may be admissible at a probation revocation hearing under the spontaneous statement exception and whether the trial court erred in admitting it is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard. To qualify for admission under the spontaneous statement exception to the hearsay rule, the statement in question must purport to describe an act perceived by the declarant and have been made spontaneously while the declarant is under the stress caused by the perception. The crucial element in determining the reliability is not the nature of the statement but the mental state of the declarant. Although length of time between the incident and the statement and the fact that the statement is in response to questioning are factors to consider, they will not necessarily deprive the statement of spontaneity. In this case, appellant, while serving jail time as a condition of probation, allegedly was involved in a gang battery on a fellow inmate. Thirty minutes after the incident, the victim selected appellant’s picture from a book of 64 photographs, as being that of one of the responsibles. The identification was the only evidence tying appellant to the battery. Despite being subpoenned, the victim failed to appear at the subsequent revocation hearing. The appellate court found no abuse of discretion by the trial court in its ruling that, under these facts, the identification was admissible as a spontaneous exception to the hearsay rule.
The due process balancing test for admissibility of hearsay under the federal constitution (United States v. Comito (9th Cir. 1999) 177 F.3d 1166) does not apply to evidence falling within the spontaneous exception to the hearsay rule. Preliminarily, the court observed that Crawford v. Washington (2004) 541 U.S. 36, holding that the Sixth Amendment confrontation clause bars out-of-court testimonial statements unless the witness is unavailable and the defendant had prior opportunity to cross-examine, does not apply to probation revocations because they are not criminal prosecutions. It then ruled that the reliability and necessity inherent in a spontaneous statement exception satisfy the probationer’s due process confrontation rights and there is no need for the court to find good cause for declarant’s absence.