In every DUI case, there are one or more police reports that are generated. These police reports can include a treasure trove of information a diligent defense attorney finds useful. Even though each case is different, below we review various areas of a police report that may provide insight into certain DUI defenses and defense challenges, depending on the facts of the case.
The Time of the Police Stop
In the police reports, police list the time of the stop, the time they first observed driving conduct, and, in the appropriate case, the time erratic driving was reported via a 911 call or other citizen contact. The time of the stop is important as it frames the rest of the issues relating to the charges.
When people consume alcohol, their alcohol levels increase. When people stop drinking, their blood alcohol level continues to increase for a period of time, then levels off, then decreases. This happens in a predictable fashion. In the right case, the time of the stop and the time the breath, blood, or urine test was collected can be an issue.
Location of the Police Stop
The police reports detail the location of the stop as well as the time of the stop. The location of the stop may be important because it informs the defense attorney of where the police were situated when initiating the stop. By knowing the location, the defense attorney can learn:
- Whether the police had a clear view of the car as it approached
- What the lighting situation was in the area
- Whether the description of the scene as provided in the police reports reflects the scene accurately.
In the right case, going to the scene and documenting it as it actually exists can provide valuable information to assist in the defense of a person charged with DUI.
The Identity of the Georgia Arresting Police Officer
The identity of the police officer is revealed in the police reports. This can be critical information in the right case. Like most employees, the police officer's employee files include information such as training taken, employee performance reviews, and discipline, if applicable.
Just as in any other profession, some police officers have better employment records than other police officers. If a police officer has a history of dishonest behavior or sloppy record-keeping practices, this may be an area appropriate for cross-examination, calling into question the reliability of the police officer's testimony.
Identity of Others Present during the Police Stop
The police report should point out the identities of others present during the police stop. A failure to identify can be an area of cross-examination at trial. Witnesses can be important in a criminal case, and the government has the burden of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt. If police neglect to gather information from those who may have it, the government may have failed to meet its burden.
On the other hand, if the police do, in fact, identify the witnesses at the scene, this gives the defense attorney the information necessary to contact these potential witnesses. Because the stakes are so high in DUI cases, no stone should be left unturned. Each witness identified should be interviewed.
Finally, in many, if not most DUI cases, more than one police officer responds to the scene. Not all police officers write reports. Often, that duty is left to the responding officer. Other officers at the scene, such as one supervising the tow of the vehicle, or taking witness statements, may not write their own report. However, by having the identity of the other officers at the scene, the defense attorney can contact the officers to take statements from them. They may recall a small detail or have been in a position to observe something the arresting officer failed to mention in their written report. By mining the police report for the identity of others at the scene, the defense attorney can sometimes uncover valuable information from other members of the police.
Statements Taken from Witnesses
Police document in their police reports any statements they take from witnesses. The reports include summaries of what each witness reported to the police. What each witness saw, and the vantage point from which each person saw it can be valuable.
Again, knowing the location of the alleged incident, a defense attorney and their investigator can return to the scene and attempt to recreate the conduct reported. Whether a person was actually in a position to see what they reported seeing can become an issue. Whether the lighting may have impacted perception, or whether a tree branch may have obstructed their view, or whether there is some other reason to call into question the reliability of the witness' statement, with a police report indicating what the witness will testify to, a defense attorney has the opportunity to challenge the observations and the testimony.
Chain of Custody
If blood or urine is collected in conjunction with a DUI charge, under the law, the government has to establish a proper chain of custody. Tracking an evidentiary sample starts with the information in the police reports. If a tube of blood was collected at 2:00 am on a Tuesday, for example, but somehow doesn't make it to the lab for testing until 4:30 pm the following Thursday, this calls into question the reliability of the test results.
If You are Facing DUI Charges...
DUI charges are serious. If you are faced with DUI charges, you need an attorney well versed in the area of DUI defense. Don't hire just any criminal defense attorney. Instead, hire a firm that focuses exclusively on DUI defense. Our Hall County DUI Attorneys know what it takes to litigate DUI cases, challenging the government each step of the way. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you with your criminal DUI case.