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The Truth About Police Reports

Aggressive Trial Attorney With a Reputation for Success

Police officers are trained in the art of report writing. And if you don't think that report writing is an art then you've never read a police report.

I believe that at one point in everyone's life, they have been on the receiving end of something written by a cop. For the unlucky among us, it's an arrest affidavit. For the majority of us, it's a traffic ticket. And for most of us, the reaction has been: THAT'S NOT WHAT HAPPENED!!!!

I'm not saying that cops lie (although, unfortunately, some do). What I'm saying is that police officers are trained on how to write for a certain audience. That audience may be a traffic hearing officer, a prosecutor, or even a criminal court judge. Officers must take the facts and conform them into an explanation - a legal reason as to why you were issued that ticket, or why you were charged with a crime.

That report is crucial as judges must use these reports to make probable cause determinations at bond hearings. If the report does not properly articulate not only the elements of the offense but the officer's reason for believing that the accused committed the offense, then the judge may release someone on their own recognizance (ROR) or, if the offense is a misdemeanor, the judge may dismiss the charge outright.

If the police report survives the bond hearing, then it will be passed along to a prosecutor who must make a filing decision based on that report. The prosecutor must ask one simple question when reading a police report: Would these facts, if proven beyond a reasonable doubt, be sufficient to convict the accused of the crime for which they are charged?

So in trying to appease this audience (because no cop wants their citation or arrest to be thrown out), officers may embellish their reports.

One of the first things clients tell me when they come to my office is that the police lied in their report. That some fact, or several facts, stated in writing are simply not true. LIke I said, officers aren't reciting the facts for the purpose of reciting facts. They are trying to justify your arrest.

You will get a copy of your arrest affidavit when you are arrested. This is the first police report that you will see. I urge you to take that report to your criminal defense attorney. Remember - that report is merely one officer's account of what happened. There are very likely many factual errors in it. Through the discovery process, namely the taking of depositions, the truth is often revealed.