State v. Hauss
In State v. Hauss, 140 Ariz. 230, 681 P.2d 382 (1984), the prior convictions used to enhance the defendant's sentences were proved by a probation officer's testimony. 140 Ariz. at 230-31, 681 P.2d at 382-83.
The supreme court affirmed the sentencing enhancement but disapproved the method used to prove the prior convictions. Id. at 231-32, 681 P.2d at 383-84.
The court stated, "subject to two very limited exceptions," "'the proper procedure to establish the prior conviction is for the state to offer in evidence a certified copy of the conviction . . . and establish the defendant as the person to whom the document refers.'" Id. at 231, 681 P.2d at 383.
The state's evidence of the defendant's prior convictions had consisted of testimony from a probation officer who had prepared a presentence report for those convictions. Id. at 230, 681 P.2d at 382.
"Based solely on his personal knowledge without reference to an official record, the probation officer testified that he had been present in court when the prior judgments of guilt were entered and sentences imposed, and that the appellant was the person so adjudged and sentenced." Id. at 230-31, 681 P.2d at 382-83.
The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed its previous holding in State v. Lee that "'the proper procedure to establish the prior conviction is for the state to offer in evidence a certified copy of the conviction'" and "'establish the defendant as the person to whom the document refers,'" emphasizing that "the Lee procedure is necessary to ensure that proceedings to determine the existence of prior convictions do not become credibility contests." Id. at 231, 681 P.2d at 383.
The court found the probation officer's testimony had been "highly reliable" and affirmed Hauss's sentences, id. at 232, 681 P.2d at 384, but, for future cases, the court "mandated" the introduction of "documentary evidence in order to prove prior convictions," "subject to two very limited exceptions." Id. at 231, 681 P.2d at 383.
The court stated this documentation requirement would be excused only when:
(1) a defendant has admitted a conviction while testifying in court, or;
(2) "the state can show that its earnest and diligent attempts to procure the necessary documentation were unsuccessful for reasons beyond its control and that the evidence introduced in its stead is highly reliable." Id.