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Hearsay – 911 Call

State v. Peter Ballos, 230 Wis.2d 495, 602 N.W.2d 117 (Ct. App. 1999)
For Ballos: Robert N. Myeroff


¶12. Wisconsin case law has not yet clarified whether, or on what basis, 911 calls, tapes, or transcripts may be admissible. Although the precise analysis may vary from case to case or even from call to call depending on the specific facts and circumstances, we see several avenues of admissibility for 911 evidence, all of which allow for the admission of the 911 evidence in this case.

The court proceeds to ground admissibility of the statements themselves under various alternative hearsay exceptions – present sense impression (¶13), excited utterance (¶¶14-15), statement of recent perception (¶16); and the transcripts of the calls under the record of regularly recorded activity rule (¶19). The kitchen-sink quality to the court’s discussion may make it difficult to mount a successful hearsay challenge to any given 911 call. The various rationales by the court — present sense impression (“the 911 callers were describing the events they were perceiving or had just observed”); excited utterance (“suddenly seeing a building on fire is a startling event”); statement of recent perception (statement not instigated by another, describing recently perceived event, made in apparent good faith) — will probably apply to most any 911 call / caller. And, apparently, transcripts of 911 calls seem to be admissible as a matter of law, under the “business records” exception (assuming, of course, that the statements they document satisfy a hearsay rule).

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