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Accuracy of Police Reports in a DUI
Michigan law enforcement agents routinely file reports detailing the circumstances and events that lead to arrests. In many instances, the prosecution's entire case against a defendant hinges on the accuracy of the police report. This is especially true in drunk and drugged driving cases and it is why it is so important to have your lawyer obtain and carefully review them when building a defense.What is in the Police Report?
The police are required to prepare a complete and accurate narrative report setting forth in sufficient detail all the information related to the arrest. Police officers are trained to prepare police reports that contain clear and convincing information and evidence that you were operating while intoxicated. These reports are usually prepared immediately after your arrest, and then are reviewed by a superior and supervising officer before being released. The officer may rely on their notes collected at the roadside and may even review the video recording while or prior to preparing the report. All police reports in a DUI case should minimally include:
- Time of the initial traffic stop
- Reason for the initial traffic stop
- Make model and description of vehicle driven
- Description of the traffic stop
- Details regarding all interactions with the driver, including his or her appearance and demeanor
- Notes on the driver's performance on any field sobriety tests
- Admissions of driver
- Any witness statements collected at the scene
- Potential Problems with Police Reports
During discovery, your defense attorney will obtain and review the police reports associated with your case. If there are any video recordings, the narrative report can be compared with the video recording to determine if there are any discrepancies or if anything important and potentially exculpatory was left out. The police version of what happened can also be compared with the client's recollection of what occurred. Any witnesses should likewise be interviewed.
Armed with all this collateral evidence your attorney can now set to the task of scrutinizing the police reports for errors inconsistencies and omissions. If any of the information contained in the report conflicts with the arresting officer's statements for if your attorney can show that other errors were made at any time during the arrest process, it may be grounds for dismissal of the case.Using the Police Report in Plea Negotiations
Once your lawyer has identified all of the inconsistencies, inaccuracies and embellishments contained in your police report, he can bring these to the prosecutor as part of the ammunition used to persuade the prosecutor to significantly reduce or even dismiss the case. No prosecutor wants to put a lying police officer on the stand, and your lawyer will be doing the prosecutor a favor by bringing this evidence to them before trial. This can be a very effective tool leading to successful plea negotiations on behalf of the client.Using the Police Report at Trial
In Michigan police reports are not admissible as evidence. They are used by police officers only to refresh their memory. A police officer may not read from their report and must testify only based on their actual memory of what occurred. It is not unusual however for the police officer's testimony to go far beyond what is stated in the police report, or to testify differently from what is contained in the report. When this happens, your lawyer can use the police report during cross-examination to demonstrate that the officer's testimony, when different from the report, is not trustworthy and should be disregarded. Cross examination of this nature can be very effective in moving the jury toward their not-guilty verdict.