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Commonwealth v. Royal

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

March 7, 2016

Commonwealth
v.
Titus T. Royal

         Argued December 1, 2015

          Complaint received and sworn to in the Charlestown Division of the Boston Municipal Court Department on December 11, 2013.

         The case was heard by Lawrence E. McCormick, J.

          Judgment reversed. Finding set aside.

          Rachel T. Rose for the defendant.

          Priscilla Guerrero ( Cailin M. Campbell, Assistant District Attorney, with her) for the Commonwealth.

         Present: Rubin, Maldonado, & Massing, JJ.

          OPINION

          [46 N.E.3d 585] Massing, J.

          The defendant, Titus T. Royal, appeals from his conviction, after a bench trial in the Charlestown Division of the Boston Municipal Court Department, of driving with a suspended license in violation of G. L. c. 90, § 23. He claims that the Commonwealth relied on inadmissible hearsay evidence to prove the element of license suspension, that the Commonwealth failed to prove that the registry of motor vehicles (registry) mailed him

Page 169

notice of its intent to suspend his license, and that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction. Because the Commonwealth's evidence of license suspension -- an officer's testimony that he " ran ... the [defendant's driver's] license number through the Registry of Motor Vehicles" and it " came with a status of suspended" -- was inadmissible hearsay, we reverse the conviction.

          Background.

          On the morning of November 4, 2013, State Trooper Jeffrey Morrill, who was the only witness to testify at trial, stopped the vehicle the defendant was driving for having an expired registration decal. Using the laptop computer in his cruiser, Morrill " activated C[J]IS" [1] and checked the vehicle's registration and the defendant's driver's license using the registry database. Over the defendant's objection that the testimony was hearsay, Morrill stated, " The registration came back as status expired, non-renewable. And the Massachusetts license came with a status of suspended."

         In addition, the Commonwealth introduced in evidence four certified registry documents. These included two notices of the registry's intent to suspend the defendant's license, both dated August 5, 2013, addressed to the defendant. The first notice informed the defendant that on the basis of " 3 Surchargeable Events," the registry would suspend his license on November 3, 2013, unless he timely completed a driver retraining program.[2] The second [46 N.E.3d 586] notice informed him that his license would be suspended on September 4, 2013, if he failed to pay $300 owed for delinquent citations and fines.

         Each notice was accompanied by a corresponding registry document entitled " USPS Mailing Confirmation." Each mailing confirmation record included the printed statement, " CREATED BY RMV ON: 08/05/2013" -- the same date as the notices. The confirmation associated with the first notice further indicated, " RECEIVED BY USPS: 08/06/2013 21:03, AT POST OFFICE: 02205." The second mailing confirmation similarly indicated that it was " received" by " USPS" on " 08/07/2013 19:59" at the same post office.

Page 170

          The four documents were certified by the registrar of motor vehicles (registrar) under G. L. c. 90, § 22, as being " true copy(s) of the driving history and notice(s) of suspension/revocation as appearing in the registrar's records." The registrar further attested, " I hereby certify that on 01/09/14 his/her license or ...


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