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People v. Parker

Court of Appeals of Michigan

May 18, 2017

TIMOTHY PARKER, Defendant-Appellee.

         St. Clair Circuit Court LC No. 2016-001135-FH

          Before: Riordan, P.J., and Ronayne Krause and Swartzle, JJ.

          SWARTZLE, J.

         Under Michigan Court Rule 6.110(C), a district court is required to conduct a preliminary examination "in accordance with the Michigan Rules of Evidence, " including the rule against hearsay (MRE 802). In 2014, the Legislature created a statutory exception to this rule, whereby "[t]he rules of evidence apply at the preliminary examination except" that the hearsay rule does not preclude certain laboratory reports from being admitted, among other things. MCL 766.11b(1). This statutory exception is not reflected in any court rule, thereby creating an irreconcilable conflict between the two.

         To resolve the conflict, we look to whether the subject matter of the rule/statute is a procedural or substantive one. Under our Constitution, a court rule will trump a statute when the two irreconcilably conflict on a procedural matter. With respect to a substantive matter, however, a statute will trump a court rule. Neither the Supreme Court nor our Court has yet addressed the issue of whether, during a preliminary examination, a district court should preclude a laboratory report as hearsay under MCR 6.110(C) and MRE 802 or, instead, admit the report under the statutory hearsay exception in MCL 766.11b(1). As explained below, we conclude that the conflict involves a substantive matter and, accordingly, a district court should apply the statutory exception.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant Timothy Parker was charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI), MCL 257.625(1), driving with a suspended license, MCL 257.904, and possessing an open container of alcohol in a vehicle, MCL 257.624a. At defendant's preliminary examination, Officer Robert Jenkins testified that, on August 4, 2015, he was dispatched to the Harsens Island ferry to respond to an OWI complaint. He arrived at the ferry at approximately 12:45 a.m. and found defendant's running vehicle parked at a stop sign with defendant sleeping in the driver's seat. Officer Jenkins observed a box of wine on the passenger seat and a glass containing ice and a liquid in the center console. The officer testified that he knocked on the window for approximately ten minutes before defendant finally woke up. Defendant admitted he had been drinking and stated that he was on his way to Harsens Island to go home.

         Officer Jenkins testified that defendant's speech was slurred, his eyes were bloodshot, and he appeared disoriented. Defendant failed two field sobriety tests and refused a third. Officer Jenkins placed defendant under arrest and obtained a warrant for a blood draw. During the preliminary examination, the district court admitted a laboratory report outlining the results of that blood draw over defendant's objection. The report indicated that defendant's blood alcohol content was 0.163.

         The district court found the prosecution had presented sufficient evidence to find probable cause that defendant was operating while intoxicated and bound defendant over to the circuit court. Defendant then filed a motion with the circuit court to quash the bind over, arguing that the laboratory report was inadmissible under MCR 6.110. Defendant acknowledged that MCL 766.11b appeared to render the report admissible but argued that MCR 6.110 trumped MCL 766.11b. The circuit court agreed and remanded the case for continuation of the preliminary examination.

         The prosecution sought leave to appeal, which this Court granted.[1] On appeal, the prosecution argues that the statutory exception to the hearsay rule in MCL 766.11b supersedes MCR 6.110 as a statement of substantive law by the Legislature.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         This Court reviews a trial court's ruling on a motion to quash for an abuse of discretion. People v McKerchie, 311 Mich.App. 465, 470-471; 875 N.W.2d 749 (2015). An abuse of discretion occurs when, for example, a trial court premises its decision on an error of law. Id. at 471. The interpretation of a statute or court rule, including whether a statute is unconstitutional, involves a question of law that we review de novo. McDougall v Schanz, 461 Mich. 15, 23-24; 597 N.W.2d 148 (1999). When reviewing the constitutionality of a statute, we apply "the well-established rule that a statute is presumed to be constitutional unless its unconstitutionality is clearly apparent." Id. at 24.

         B. When a Statute and Court Rule ...

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