Weaknesses of a Police Officer’s Report for a San Diego Driving Under the Influence Arrest

  • September 1, 2017

    Taking the time to prepare for trial can mean the difference between receiving a not guilty verdict and getting a pair of handcuffs. One of the most important things to do is to review a copy of the police report. This can be a good place where you can look for law enforcement errors as you build your case.

    Law enforcement officers respond to several calls in the course of any one shift. Sometimes, they get called to the next emergency before they have a chance to prepare their report. This can mean that they make mistakes when they finally sit down to write the incident report in your case.

    Look for probable cause

    A police officer’s report needs to start with probable cause for their investigation. They need to articulate this in their report. They must be able to talk about the specific reasons that led them to investigate you. If the report just talks about their intuition or that they stopped you just because of the make and model of your vehicle, you may have grounds to bring a motion to suppress.

    To bring a motion to suppress, you file paperwork that tells the court that law enforcement didn’t have the authority to stop your vehicle. Filing this motion means that law enforcement has to come to court to explain their actions. If the court agrees with you, they can throw out the state’s key evidence in your case.

    Evaluate the field sobriety tests

    After you’ve looked for probable cause, the next thing to do is evaluate the field sobriety tests that law enforcement administered. There are some field sobriety tests that are standardized. Law enforcement agencies have tested these sobriety tests in order to verify that they’re actually useful for determining whether a person is over the legal limit.

    These verified tests are the tests that law enforcement should use in your case. They’re the walk and turn test, the one leg stand and the horizontal gaze nystagmus. If law enforcement has you take any other sobriety tests, they’re likely not following their training. If they ask you to say the ABCs forwards or backwards or ask you to touch your fingers together, these are mistakes in their investigation. You should work with your attorney in order to question the officer about why they thought it was a good idea to do field sobriety tests that aren’t standardized.

    Look at the chemical test

    It’s important to evaluate the specifics of the chemical test that law enforcement gives you. There are protocols that law enforcement needs to follow in order to make sure that the test produces accurate results. Even a little bit of carelessness can make the test results invalid.

    Law enforcement needs to evaluate the testing machine periodically to make sure that it’s valid. They also need to make sure that you don’t put anything in your mouth or regurgitate for approximately 15 minutes before you take the test. If any of these things aren’t listed in the police report, it’s important to question the officer about why they didn’t think it was important enough to write down that they followed procedure.

    Impeaching law enforcement

    Typically, a police report by itself isn’t admissible in court. The officer shouldn’t just go to the witness stand and read their report to the jury. However, if the law enforcement officer says something in court that’s different than what they wrote in their report, you’re able to bring up the report in order to question them about their conflicting statements.

    Building upon your investigation

    Once you find weaknesses in the police report, it’s important to build on them to prepare your defenses. You may want to contact lay witnesses to see if the police left out important information that these witnesses may be able to add. If you sense there are holes in the law enforcement officer’s field sobriety tests or chemical testing, you may want to secure an expert witness in these areas. They may be able to explain to the jury how the law enforcement officer’s poor work calls into question the case against you. The police report is a great place to look in order to find holes in law enforcement’s work that might help you win your case.

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