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Name: People v. Zavala
Case #: D062125
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 05/13/2013

Printed compilation of automatically generated and stored cell call data produced by human query is admissible as a business record where kept by a reliable computer program in the regular course of business. Police officers identified Zavala as a robbery suspect via cell phone records. Over hearsay objection the trial court admitted computer printouts of call logs, which linked Zavala to the robberies. Zavala was convicted and sentenced to 22 years. On appeal he claimed the computer logs were inadmissible hearsay. Held: Affirmed. At trial, phone company record custodians testified the cell phone data is automatically recorded by a computer at the time of the call then transmitted to a detail record archive. This information is recorded in the normal course of business for billing purposes. When a valid subpoena is received, a record custodian runs a query for the data, which is transferred to a spreadsheet. Evidence presented showed the data was automatically generated at or near the time each call was made, in the normal course of business, by a reliable computer program. Testimony established the mode of preparation of the documents which indicated the data was trustworthy. The custodian’s testimony provided adequate foundation for admission of the data under the business records exception to the hearsay rule (Evid. Code, § 1271).

Admission of police testimony regarding the call log on Zavala’s cell phone was not error. Zavala claimed the trial court abused its discretion by admitting a police officer’s hearsay testimony regarding call log information viewed on Zavala’s cell phone. However, this testimony was not admitted for its truth, but for the limited purpose of explaining the officer’s investigative steps, and the jury was so instructed; this was appropriate.