Judicial notice allows a court to accept the truth of a fact without that fact having to be specifically proven by evidence presented in court. This usually pertains to facts so well known that they cannot reasonably be doubted. An often used example is that judicial notice may be taken of what day of the week corresponds to a particular given date. The court may consult a calendar. But the calendar need not be introduced into the evidentiary record as proof. Existing laws and regulations are other subjects of which courts take judicial notice.
In the recent case of State v. Pantaleon, M2012-00575-CCA-R3-CD (Tenn.Criim.App. 4-25-2013), the Defendant on direct appeal asked the Court of Criminal Appeals to take judicial notice of the fact that the state fair occurred in late summer in 2003. The Court declined to do so.
In the Pantaleon case, the Defendant had been charged with rape of a child and aggravated sexual battery based on multiple incidents of alleged abuse, all alleged in the indictment to have occurred between January 1, 2003, and April 10, 2003. The victim, a relative and family friend of the Defendant, testified at trial that one of the incidents, for which the Defendant was eventually convicted, had occurred after she had attended the state fair with the Defendant and the Defendant's family. According to the Defendant's appellate counsel, any incident that occurred after attending the state fair could not have occurred within the time alleged in the indictment, and was therefore not an offense with which the Defendant was charged, because the state fair is in the late summer. However, no evidence was presented to the trial court regarding when the state fair occurred. The Court of Criminal Appeals declined to take notice of when it occurred, concluding that doing so would be substituting their judgment on a factual matter for that of the jury, which is the trier of fact in a criminal case.
For more information on the use of judicial notice in a criminal case, contact Hindman & Associates.