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Is Evidence of a Kelley Blue Book Evaluation Hearsay?

This titular question is one that the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District was recently asked to answer in the case of People v. Jenkins  (2021) 2021 Cal. App. LEXIS 843.

A jury convicted Tyrus Jenkins of first-degree burglary of a residence with a person present, second degree burglary of a car, attempted unlawful taking of the car, and misdemeanor possession of burglary tools. The court imposed a total prison sentence of 13 years. Jenkins contends his conviction for attempted unlawful taking of a vehicle must be reversed because the court permitted, over his objection, a police detective to testify to the car’s estimated value obtained from the Kelley Blue Book’s Web site. Jenkins asserts this was hearsay evidence that should have been excluded, and absent this testimony, there was no evidence establishing the car was worth more than $950, an element of the felony offense.

On Appeal, the People argued that the valuation from the Kelley Blue Book site was properly admitted as it met the “published compilation” exception to the hearsay rule as codified in Evidence Code sec 1340.  This rule section states:

Evidence of a statement, other than an opinion, contained in a tabulation, list, directory, register, or other published compilation is not made inadmissible by the hearsay rule if the compilation is generally used and relied upon as accurate in the course of a business…

The Court of Appeal considered the exception codified in Section 1340, stating:

Five elements must be satisfied when a party seeks to admit evidence under the published compilation exception: “(1) the proffered statement must be contained in a ‘compilation’; (2) the compilation must be ‘published’; (3) the compilation must be ‘generally used … in the course of a business’; (4) it must be ‘generally … relied upon as accurate’ in the course of such business; and (5) the statement must be one of fact rather than opinion.

(People v. Jenkins (Oct. 12, 2021, No. G059110) ___Cal.App.5th___ [2021 Cal. App. LEXIS 843, at *11].)

Upon full analysis, the Court held:

Kelley Blue Book is used for providing the market prices of vehicles and relied upon as being accurate in the course of business by both law enforcement and car dealerships. Thus, we conclude the court did not abuse its discretion by admitting Johnson’s testimony concerning the Kelley Blue Book’s valuation of the car.

(People v. Jenkins (Oct. 12, 2021, No. G059110) ___Cal.App.5th___ [2021 Cal. App. LEXIS 843, at *25].)

Ultimately, the answer to the question is, “Yes, it is hearsay BUT, at least with these facts, it falls under the published compilation exception as Codified in Evidence Code § 1340.”

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