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Police Reports

When I was a young prosecutor, somebody once told me that a cop's most dangerous weapon was his pen. You know who told me that? A cop.

That's because police officers are specially trained in the art of report writing. They know that what they put down on that arrest affidavit will be the tool used by the court to determine probable cause. This is a necessary finding the court must make in order to determine your bond status. This is the information that prosecutors will use in preparing their cases. It is not just some mindless report. Police officers deliberately craft them so that you can be prosecuted for your alleged crime.

When something is deliberately crafted, careful editting may be required. For that reason, many facts are omitted or purposefully embellished upon, or even added.

I don't want to say that police officers lie in their reports, but I have never in my life - and I've probably read about 10,000 police reports - read a police report that was a 100% accurate recitation of what actually occurred.

I write this because I know how you feel. You feel violated, reading that dingy yellow copy they give you. Telling yourself, "Wait a minute...that never happened!"

I can't tell you how many times clients have sat in my office, going through police reports with me, line-by-line, almost in tears over the frustration of reading what is simply not true.

So when you get your copy of your police report, don't be surprised if it reads like a work of fiction. You're not alone.

But through an independent investigation, the taking of depositions, and the examination of evidence, these reports tend to become more and more transparent. In time - at least I like to think so - the truth is revealed.

Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney serving Miami-Dade and Broward.