Shurbaji v. Commonwealth – Case Brief Summary (Virginia)

In Shurbaji v. Commonwealth, 18 Va. App. 415, 444 S.E.2d 549, 10 Va. Law Rep. 1399 (Va. Ct. App. 1994), a search of a residence revealed eight grams of cocaine, various articles of drug paraphernalia, substantial amounts of money, personal items bearing appellant's name, and personal papers, including utility bills, addressed to appellant. Id. at 550.

Notably, the items were all found in the same master bedroom. Id.

On appeal, appellant contended that the trial court erred in admitting the utility bills into evidence because it was hearsay and the prosecution was unable to lay a foundation under the business records exception. Id. at 551.

In concluding that the trial court did not err, the Court held:

The challenged documents in this case were not offered for the truth of the matter asserted therein. The utility bills were used as circumstantial evidence that appellant received or stored his property, including his correspondence, in the master bedroom. It was irrelevant what the utility bills "asserted therein." Rather, the mere existence of the bills in the master bedroom tended to prove that appellant controlled the room, and that the cocaine and paraphernalia found there belonged to him. See United States v. Hazeltine, 444 F.2d 1382, 1384 (10th Cir. 1971) (envelope bearing inmate's name and address was not hearsay and properly admissible, without authentication, to establish that cell and locker in which heroin was seized were the inmate's cell and locker); United States v. Snow, 517 F.2d 441, 443 (9th Cir. 1975) (label bearing accused's name affixed to gun case was not hearsay and constituted an admissible evidentiary fact); see also McCormick on Evidence § 250 (John William Strong ed., 4th ed. 1992). Accordingly, the bills were not hearsay and were properly admitted into evidence. (Id.)