Subscribe to LexTalk to stay on top of today’s legal issue and trends.
Catapult Your Career |
Industry Insights & Trends |
Product Training & Tips
For drivers who have been charged with a DUI offense, the DUI incident report prepared by the officer who investigated and/or arrested the defendant is extremely important. These reports describe most of the pertinent facts of the case and often can be used to challenge or contradict an officer’s later recollection of the events.
Typically, defense counsel will be provided a copy of the complaint and the incident reports at the defendant’s arraignment. While this is what is considered the initial discovery packet, a review of the incident reports may reveal several missing items of evidence that the defense can seek through the DUI discovery process. For example, if there were patrol vehicle dash cam recordings of the vehicle stop or audio recordings of police dispatch communications or the 911 call, these items would have to be specially requested and would usually be provided at a later pretrial hearing.
The incident report will usually be prepared by the arresting officer immediately after a driver has been arrested. The report must then be reviewed and signed off by a supervising officer. The report will include identifying information about the driver, including a physical description of the driver’s appearance and demeanor. The officer will describe the driving conduct that led to the vehicle stop or any other legal basis for pulling the driver over. This description is often very important. In some cases, what the officer believes to be a legitimate reason for a traffic stop ends up being invalid. In other cases, the officer’s account of the defendant’s driving conduct will not match what was recorded on the dash cam video. In these cases, the defendant can challenge the vehicle stop by filing a motion pursuant to California Penal Code Section 1538.5. If granted, all evidence flowing from the unlawful DUI stop would be suppressed and the prosecution would likely be unable to move forward.
If there were other witnesses involved, their information would be included in the incident reports. While this material would often be redacted before a defendant can read it, defense counsel would receive an unredacted version of the reports and can follow up with witnesses who may be helpful to the defense.
The incident reports will also include physical descriptions of the defendant and descriptions of his or her performance on the field sobriety tests. If video or audio recordings later contradict what an officer wrote in his or her report, these can be used to challenge the officer’s account later in court.
When there is a traffic collision, there will usually be a supplemental report prepared by an officer specifically trained in auto accident investigations. For defendants who take the breath test on the Breathalyzer, the results of the test are usually included with the incident reports. For drivers who select the blood test, the results may come separately as these often take several weeks to come back from the lab. If the driver refused testing, a summary of the refusal conversation will typically be included in the incident reports.