Admitting Airline Computerized Business Records

Airline check-in and reservation computer records were admissible under the business records hearsay exception; the fact that the records were printed at the request of an INS agent did not alter the character of the business records, in United States v. Fujii, 301 F.3d 535 (7th Cir. 2002)

Records and evidence are increasingly maintained on computers. The statements on the computer records are hearsay unless a hearsay exception applies. A Seventh Circuit case considered the admissibility of airline computer records.

In the case, defendant Fujii proceeded to trial on charges of attempting to smuggle aliens into the United States for private financial gain, encouraging and inducing aliens to come to, enter, or reside in the United States, and knowingly using a counterfeit passport. At trial, the government introduced Korean Airlines’ check-in and reservation records, over defense objection that they were not made in the ordinary course of business and were untrustworthy. The jury convicted the defendant. On appeal, the defendant challenged the admission of the airline records.

The Seventh Circuit affirmed the admission of the records as business records, under FRE 803(6). As the circuit explained:

“Computer data compiled and presented in computer printouts prepared specifically for trial is admissible under Rule 803(6), even though the printouts themselves are not kept in the ordinary course of business.

“In this case, the check-in and reservation records were compiled and maintained in Korean Airlines’ ordinary course of business. Oliveras, Korean Airlines Assistant Manager, testified that the records were made from information transmitted from a person with knowledge, the entries were made at or near the time the information was received, it was the regular business practice of Korean Airlines to make the entries into the computer system, and the records were kept as part of Korean Airlines’ regular business activity. Because the information was printed out at the request of the INS does not deprive the printouts of its business-record character.”
Fujii, 301 F.3d at 539 (citation omitted). Finally, the circuit found the defendant had failed to show the records were untrustworthy.

The Fujii case demonstrates a common application of the business records exception to computer records that satisfy the requirements of FRE 803(6).

Federal Rules of Evidence