Police Reports in DUI cases in Arizona
Introduction to Police Reports in DUI cases
Just as in any criminal case, or many civil matters, police reports in DUI cases will be generated to record what happened. The police report can be a crucial piece of evidence in a criminal trial. Actually viewing a police report can be shocking to some individuals, especially those who have never seen a police report before. Police reports for DUI cases will include information regarding how the officer perceived the driver when they were pulled over, as well as other details from the first encounter.
Police Report Basics
To begin with, what exactly is a police report generally? A police report is written record of your arrest and the surrounding evidence.i When it comes to a police report for a DUI, the police report should be prepared by the officer right after the incident occurred in order to ensure accurate memory of the events. While police reports should be created right away regardless of the situation, that is not always the case. The police report is typically made available to the defendant and their attorney at the first court hearing.ii Again, this is not always the case but typically the police report will be made available pretty quickly after missing a deadline like this. In some states the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will also receive a copy, which will allow the defendant to request a copy directly from the DMV.
Now, the police report is considered to be one of the most important documents in a DUI conviction.iii The police report is so important for the prosecution because it is a reflection of the arresting officer’s memory and accounts of the event that happened related to the particular DUI case at hand.iv Without that information, the arresting officer may not be able to remember all of the details if the defendant is prosecuted weeks, or even months down the line.
At the trial, the arresting officer is permitted to review the police report in order to “refresh” his memory. Realistically speaking, this means that the arresting officer is not required to actually remember anything from the time of the arrest with the defendant. They will have the ability to review the police report they created and even if they do not remember exactly what is said, they can testify that the report is true and accurate.
What is actually in Police Reports for DUI cases?
The police report is a narrative from the perspective of the arresting officer on the night the defendant was arrested for a DUI.v This will include why the officer was initially suspicious (erratic driving or swerving), how you were stopped, and anything the defendant said while being stopped.vi The police reports in DUI cases will also include specific details about the field sobriety tests that the officer administered.viiThe arresting officer will take note of the defendant’s personal appearance at the time of the arrest. This could include the condition of their eyes, if their breath smelled of alcohol, or if the defendant was acting suspicious in any way.
The arresting officer can perform all or some of the field sobriety tests with the individual.viii Choosing what tests to administer will depend on how the defendant is acting and what tests the arresting officer believes will best prove whether or not the driver has been engaged in drinking alcohol. One of the field sobriety tests that can be administered is the horizontal gaze test.ix This is when the officer asks the defendant to follow their finger as they move it from one side to the other.x The arresting officer is not looking for whether the defendant can actually follow their finger, but rather whether the eyes twitch or not.xi Obviously some eye twitching is acceptable, but police officers are trained to know when the eye twitch is exaggerated because of increased alcohol intake.
The police reports in DUI cases will also include information about what the defendant actually said, or what other passengers in the car said.xii If the driver indicated they had a beer to drink earlier in the night, or a couple, the report will certainly include that information.
Who Should Review the Police Report?
It is crucial that the defendant reviews the police report, and if they are represented by counsel, then their attorney should review the police report as well.xiii Just because a police report was created does not mean that everything contained in the report is accurate or fully reflective of what actually happened. It is entirely possible that an important piece of information was forgotten, either intentionally or unintentionally, that could greatly help the defendant. If the defense team or defendant does not review the report, the missing information may never be discovered. If the defense team can provide proof of missing information, the court could take that into consideration when reviewing the police report.
Unfortunately, there is little you can do about what the arresting officer actually wrote – other than testify that the information is not accurate. The police report is the arresting officer’s version of the events and the court will accept what they wrote as true, unless there is some way to prove the information is grossly inaccurate. If the arresting officer claims you were slurring your words but the passenger in your car remembers that differently, the only way to refute the information is to have the passenger in the car testify to what they believed happened. The fact finder (either the judge or a jury) can then determine who has the better credibility.
The defense team or defendant can, however, try to attack the credibility of the tests performed on the driver. For example, was a field sobriety test inaccurately administered or did the arresting officer wait too long to administer the breathalyzer test? The devices used to detect the driver’s breath or blood can also be attacked for accuracy. While it may not prove to be fruitful, it is certainly worth a shot to contest information that does not seem accurate, or face the serious consequences for a DUI that the driver may or may not be accountable for.
Conclusion to Police Reports in DUI cases
The police reports in DUI cases are a written record that describe the events that took place during a DUI stop from the perspective of the arresting officer. The driver has the ability to review and even contest the police report if information contained therein is inaccurate. The police report is a crucial piece of evidence in a DUI case, and without it, the driver could walk away after committing the offense. Alternatively, if the driver does not review the police report and does not find the possible inaccuracies of the police report, they could be wrongfully convicted of a DUI.
i See DUI Police Report FAQs NOLO Legal Encyclopedia (Accessed April 19, 2017) http://dui.drivinglaws.org/resources/dui-and-dwi/elements-a-dui-case/police-report-faqs.htm
v See DUI Police Report FAQs NOLO Legal Encyclopedia (Accessed April 19, 2017) http://dui.drivinglaws.org/resources/dui-and-dwi/elements-a-dui-case/police-report-faqs.htm
vii See Understanding the DUI Police Report NOLO Legal Encyclopedia (Accessed April 29, 2017) http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/beat-ticket-book/chapter8-4.html
viii See DUI Police Report FAQs NOLO Legal Encyclopedia (Accessed April 19, 2017) http://dui.drivinglaws.org/resources/dui-and-dwi/elements-a-dui-case/police-report-faqs.htm