Appeals Court, May 28, 2014
It is not an abuse of discretion for a trial judge to refuse a stipulation by a defendant and require the Commonwealth to introduce evidence of such at trial.
In this case the Defendant appealed his convictions of OUI, Fifth Offense and OAS for OUI While OUI. The Defendant argued that the Trial Judge abused her discretion by refusing his stipulation that his license was suspended for OUI and allowing such evidence to be presented to the jury. The Defendant did not want the stipulation being read to the jury or introduced into evidence. The Appeals Court found that the Judge did not abuse her discretion and properly relied on Commonwealth v. Beaulieu, 79 Mass. App. Ct. 100 (2011) in deciding that that the reason for the license suspension had to be presented to the jury as part of the Commonwealth’s case. The Judge’s decision that the reason for the license suspension had to presented to the jury, is also in accord with Commonwealth v. Ortiz, 466 Mass. 475 (2013), where the SJC announced that “it will be incumbent on the Commonwealth to ensure that any stipulation concerning the existence of an element of the crime charged or any material fact related to proof of the crime is presented in some manner to the jury as part of the evidence of the case.”
The decision to bifurcate is committed to the judge’s discretion and Beaulieu should not be understood to discourage bifurcation as a means to prevent potential prejudice in cases of this nature.
The Defendant also argued that the admission of the RMV records violated his confrontation rights. It perhaps could be concluded that at least the final portion of the certification was testimonial, as the attestation that there had no reinstatement of the Defendant’s license appears to have been created for purposes of trial and not as part of the records kept in the course of ordinary RMV business. However, any confrontation issue was obviated by the presentation of the RMV branch manager’s live testimony and the Defendant’s opportunity to cross-examine her.