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Evidentiary Issues

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Overview of the State of Maryland Court System


Content:

Evidentiary Issues


A. Preventability Determination


N/A in Maryland


B. Traffic Citation from Accident


An Admission of guilt by a party is admissible in Maryland. Therefore, if a party pleads guilty to a traffic citation, then it is admissible.

However, if a party pays the traffic citation fine without admittin

Maryland does not consider failure to use a seatbelt as evidence of contributory negligence. However, drivers and passengers are statutorily required to wear seatbelts. See Md. Code Ann. Trans. § 22-412.3

Wearing a seatbelt cannot statutorily be raised in a civil matter involving property damage, personal injury or death if the damage, injury, or death is not related to the design, manufacture, installation, supplying, or repair of a seat belt required under this section. See Md. Code Ann. Trans. § 22-412.4

Note: this section does not prohibit a person from instituting a civil action for damages against a dealer, manufacturer, distributor, factory branch, or other appropriate entity arising out of an incident that involves defectively installed or defectively operating seat belt.g guilt, it is not admissible. Briggeman v. Albert, 322 Md. 133 (1990). In addition, a criminal conviction is inadmissible to establish the truth of the facts upon which it is rendered in a civil action for damages arising from the offense for which the person is convicted.


C. Failure to Wear a Seat Belt


Maryland does not consider failure to use a seatbelt as evidence of contributory negligence. However, drivers and passengers are statutorily required to wear seatbelts. See Md. Code Ann. Trans. § 22-412.3

Wearing a seatbelt cannot statutorily be raised in a civil matter involving property damage, personal injury or death if the damage, injury, or death is not related to the design, manufacture, installation, supplying, or repair of a seat belt required under this section. See Md. Code Ann. Trans. § 22-412.4

Note: this section does not prohibit a person from instituting a civil action for damages against a dealer, manufacturer, distributor, factory branch, or other appropriate entity arising out of an incident that involves defectively installed or defectively operating seat belt.


D. Failure of Motorcyclist to Wear a Helmet


This is not admissible in Maryland per Md. Code, Transportation Article, 21-1306


E. Evidence of Alcohol or Drug Intoxication


Intoxication can be admissible to help prove negligence as part of a causal chain.

There must be some connection between the intoxication alleged and the cause of the underlying incident. Expert testimony is needed to bring in the evidence regarding intoxication and the effect of intoxication. See Mitchell v. Montgomery County, 88 Md. App. 542 (1991).

F. Testimony of Investigating Police Officer


A police officer can always testify as to facts within his personal knowledge. The officer can also testify to opinions in certain situations. He can testify to lay opinions on something personally perceived that would not require specialized experience or training. An officer also may be qualified as an expert for opinions where specialized training or education is necessary to form the opinions. To be qualified as an expert, an officer would have to meet the same standards as any other expert (as described below).


G. Expert Testimony


The Frye/Reed standard is still the standard utilized in Maryland to determine the admissibility of scientific evidence. Schultz v. State, 106 Md. App. 145, 664 A.2d 60 (1995). Under the Frye/Reed standard of admissibility adopted by the Court of Appeals of Maryland, in order to be admissible, a court must determine that a scientific process or technique is generally accepted within the relevant scientific community. Hutton v. State, 339 Md. 480, 663 A.2d 1289 (1995).


H. Collateral Source


The collateral source rule has been applied to permit an injured person to recover in tort the full amount of his provable damages regardless of the amount of compensation which the person has received for his injuries from sources unrelated to the tortfeasor. Evidence of collateral source payments are
inadmissible.

I. Recorded Statements


Generally, recorded statements are not admissible. However, in civil cases where a witness is unavailable due to a party’s wrongdoing, the other party can admit a recorded statement provided the innocent party provide notice to the other party as soon as the innocent party learns of the unavailability of the witness. Md. Rule 5-804. In addition under Maryland Rule 5-613, a witness can be questioned on a prior statement, provided that before the end of the examination the witness is given specific information regarding the prior statement and has the opportunity to explain or deny it. Under Md. Rule 5-613, the recorded statement can be admitted into evidence if the witness denies making the statement AND the statement concerns a non-collateral matter.


J. Prior Convictions


Prior Convictions of crimes are admissible if:

1) The crime was an infamous crime or related to a party’s credibility; and

2) The court determines that the probative value outweights the danger of unfair prejudice to either the witness or the objecting party; and

3) Conviction occurred within the last 15 years.

K. Driving History


A drivers record is not admissible to show a predisposition for poor driving, and is also not admissible to challenge the credibility of the driver. In addition, the

driving record is usually inadmissible in a negligent entrustment case to show the entrustor knew or should have known of the danger in entrusting the vehicle.

However, if the entrustor had actually done a search of the record, or was required to do a search of the record by statute, then the record could be admissible in a negligent entrustment case to show the knowledge or notice of the entrusting defendant.


L. Fatigue


Not applicable in Maryland.

M. Spoilation


The destruction or the failure to preserve evidence by a party may give rise to an inference unfavorable to that party. If you find that the intent was to conceal the evidence, the destruction or failure to preserve must be inferred to indicate that the party believes that his or her case is weak and that he or she would not prevail if the evidence was preserved.

If you find that the destruction or failure to preserve the evidence was negligent, you may, but are not required to, infer that the evidence, if preserved, would have been unfavorable to that party. A driver’s record is not admissible to show a predisposition for poor driving, and is also not admissible to challenge the credibility of the driver. In addition, the driving record is usually inadmissible in a negligent entrustment case to show the entrustor knew or should have known of the danger in entrusting the vehicle. However, if the entrustor had actually done a search of the record, or was required to do a search of the record by statute, then the record could be admissible in a negligent entrustment case to show the knowledge or notice of the entrusting defendant.


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Overview of the State of Maryland Court System

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