Penny v. Commonwealth

In Penny v. Commonwealth, 6 Va. App. 494, 370 S.E.2d 314 (1988), the Commonwealth sought to introduce the evidence of a computer-generated "call trap" record which designated the defendant's residence as the originating source of obscene phone calls made to the victim. A "call trap" is an electronic device which repairmen program into the telephone company's computer that enables the computer to automatically receive and print information concerning calls to the particular number on which the trap was placed. At trial, the Commonwealth introduced no evidence that the particular trap placed on the victim's phone was tested for accuracy. Moreover, the defendant introduced evidence that the voltage on the defendant's telephone line was abnormal and that the abnormality could cause calls to be traced to that number even when the call did not originate from that number. The Court held that computer generated call trap identification is the result of technological or scientific procedures and, therefore, the results may be admitted only after the particular device is proven reliable. See 6 Va. App. at 498-99, 370 S.E.2d at 316-17.