from the Superior Court in Maricopa County No. CR
2017-123766-002 The Honorable John Christian Rea, Judge
Arizona Attorney General's Office, Phoenix By Jana Zinman
Counsel for Appellee
Maricopa County Legal Defender's Office, Phoenix By
Cynthia D. Beck Counsel for Appellant
Michael J. Brown delivered the opinion of the Court, in which
Presiding Judge Diane M. Johnsen and Judge Jennifer M.
Brandon Griffith appeals his conviction and sentence for
trafficking in stolen property. The issue before us is
whether incriminating digital evidence-a Facebook message and
search history log-was properly authenticated at trial. To
resolve the issue, we first clarify how the evidentiary rules
governing hearsay and authentication apply when a party seeks
to admit communications that are purportedly authored by an
account holder on a social media site such as Facebook. We
then address whether the State satisfied its authentication
obligation by presenting sufficient evidence from which a
jury could reasonably conclude that Griffith authored the
Facebook message and the searches contained in the search
history log. Because the record is sufficient to support a
finding that Griffith made the statements contained in these
communications and they were offered against him, we find no
abuse of discretion.
J.H. and S.H. returned from an errand to find their home had
been burglarized. The couple noticed several items missing,
including three Apple iPads. Based on information S.H.
acquired from Apple, police subpoenaed Apple and obtained
information about a subject named Brandon Griffith. Using a
police database, officers found a Brandon Griffith with the
same address as the one Apple provided. Police then
interviewed Griffith, who explained that others frequently
brought him computer devices asking him to restore the
devices to their factory settings. He admitted he performed
this service for pay even when he suspected the devices were
stolen. Griffith faintly recalled that R.H., the suspect in
the police's burglary investigation, had once brought him
several devices to reset, including three iPads. Griffith
said he communicated with R.H. through Facebook, prompting
the police to obtain a search warrant for Griffith's
Facebook account. In response, Facebook produced, among other
things, a message containing a photograph sent from
Griffith's account and a log of the account's search
When the State sought to introduce the Facebook documents as
business records at trial, Griffith objected that they were
inadmissible hearsay because the State failed to provide the
certification or testimony required to admit them under
Arizona Rule of Evidence ("Rule") 803(6), often
referred to as the business records exception, or under Rule
902(11), which allows for such evidence to be
self-authenticating if a proper certification is provided.
The State responded that it could lay sufficient foundation
through the testimony of the detective who obtained the
records from Facebook because she would "be able to
testify that, in accordance with her search warrant, she had
specific procedures . . . to follow in order to" obtain
the records from Facebook. The detective then explained that
Facebook has a "law enforcement portal," a webpage
where officers may request information by uploading a
subpoena or search warrant, and Facebook responds using the
same page. After hearing her testimony, the superior court
admitted the records, concluding the Facebook portal
mechanism provided the "functional equivalent of a
certification." Griffith timely appealed.
Griffith argues the superior court abused its discretion by
admitting the Facebook records at trial because they
"were hearsay, were not subject to any exception, and
were not authenticated." We review evidentiary rulings
for an abuse of discretion. State v. King, 213 Ariz.
632, 635, ¶ 7 (App. 2006). Because no Arizona case
speaks to how authentication and hearsay rules apply to
communications obtained directly from an online social media
platform such as Facebook, and the relevant Arizona rules
mirror their federal counterparts, we look to federal
decisions for guidance. State v. Winegardner, 243
Ariz. 482, 485, ¶ 8 (2018).
We first address whether the superior court properly admitted
the Facebook message. Facebook is a social media website
where account holders can send messages to other users.
United States v. Browne, 834 F.3d 403, 405 (3d Cir.
2016). To allow account holders to locate other users and
pages on the platform, Facebook has a search function that
generates results based on the keywords the user enters.
argues the court erred because the Facebook message was
inadmissible hearsay. He focuses on the State's failure
to satisfy Rule 803(6)(D), contending it did not provide (1)
the testimony of any witness with knowledge about how
Facebook makes or stores records of user messages or (2) a
certification to that effect complying with Rule 902(11). The
State counters that because the message was a Facebook
business record under Rule ...