Thursday, March 22, 2007

Haley v. State (Ct. of Appeals)

Filed March 21, 2007--Order by Judge Irma S. Raker, joined in all but Part III by Chief Judge Robert M. Bell.

Haley was convicted of robbery, second-degree assault, theft of property valued at $500 or more, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, and theft of a motor vehicle.

The victim in this case ("Singer") testified at trial that, based on his belief that Haley was a woman in distress, stopped his car in the late night/early morning to help her. Once inside the car Haley propositioned him for sex, at which point Singer demanded Haley leave his car. Haley then threatened Singer with a knife demanding his money. Singer testified that he then ran from the car on noticing an approaching cab, and Haley drove off with Singer's car. Singer then called the police and, later that morning, identified Haley in a line up. Prior to that incident, Singer testified he had never met Haley.

Haley testified that he and Singer had been having a homosexual relationship off and on for over a year or so. On that particular evening, Haley began teasing Singer that he was going to tell Singer's son about their relationship. The conversation became serious because Haley stated he was tired of hiding in Singer's closet, literally, whenever his son and neighbors came by, and an argument ensued. Singer then stated he was going to catch a cab and ordered Haley to stop the car on noticing the approaching cab.

In an effort to demonstrate the ongoing relationship with Singer, Haley, during trial, described the outside of Singer's residence, the area surrounding the residence, items inside the residence, and Singer's dog. Over objection, the State was permitted to question Haley about when he relayed the information about his familiarity with Singer's house and dog to his defense counsel.

In an unreported opinion, the intermediate appellate court affirmed the conviction holding that Haley's information was intended to be disclosed to third parties and, consequently, the attorney-client privilege was not breached. It seems that, prior to Haley discussing his defense with his counsel, he provided a report to "some lady." It is this testimony that this Court reviews for breach of attorney-client privilege.

This Court granted a writ of certiorari to consider two questions:

1) Did the Court of Special Appeals err in holding that the attorney-client privilege does not extend to information provided by a criminal defendant to his defense attorney that would later form the basis of his defense at trial because such information was "intended to be disclosed to a third party?"

2) Where the only description of the suspect involved in a carjacking is a "black female with long hair" wearing a mult-colored shirt," did the officer in this case have probable cause to arrest the petitioner, a black male with short hair, several hours later based primarily on the fact that he was wearing the same shirt?

In reviewing the grant or denial of a motion to suppress evidence under the 4th Amendment, an appellate court considers only the information contained in the record of the suppression hearing and not the record developed at trial. The attorney-client privilege is well established and understood to be a rule of evidence that prevents the disclosure of a confidential communication made by a client to his attorney for the purpose of obtaining legal advice. In its analysis of privilege, the Court set out the elements as follows: (1) where legal advice of any kind is sought (2) from a professional legal adviser in his capacity as such, (3) the communications relating to that purpose, (4) made in confidence (5) by the client (6) are at his insistence permanently protected (7) from disclosure by himself or by his legal adviser, (8) except that the protection may be waived. There is no legal distinction between the disclosure of [the contents] of a communication as distinguished from the fact that no such communication was ever made between the client and the attorney. The fact that a defendant testifies in his own behalf does not waive the privilege. Consequently, this Court held that the timing and the substance of Haley's communications to his defense counsel was, in fact, privileged communication.

The second question goes to whether the officer had probable cause to arrest Haley given the description of the suspect as a "black female with long hair" wearing a "multi-colored shirt." In considering whether probable cause existed, the Court considers the totality of the circumstances, in light of the facts found to be credible by the trial judge, factoring in the variables of the information leading to police action, the environment, the police purpose, and the suspect's conduct. A finding of probable cause requires less evidence than is necessary to sustain a conviction, but more evidence than would merely arouse suspicion. Even though Haley did not match the description, per se, the Court was pursuaded by the fact that the arresting officer, after getting confirmation that the car he was following was indeed the subject of the carjacking, personally observed Haley during the commission of the crime and then again when he executed the arrest. Thus, the particularity of the description of the offender was based on first-person observation. Consequently, this Court held there were sufficient facts on the record to justify reasonable grounds for belief by the officer that Haley was associated with the carjacking.

The full opinion is available in PDF.

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