What is the police report?
A police report is written record of your arrest and the surrounding evidence. It’s prepared by the police officer usually right after you’ve been arrested for a DUI. This record is shared by the officer with the prosecutors and court and usually will be made available to your or your attorney at your first court hearing. The report is also forwarded to the state DMV office and in some states, the defendant can request a copy from the DMV.
How important is the police report?
The police report is probably the most important document in a DUI conviction. It’s a reflection of the arresting officer’s memory and in fact, when testifying, the officer can use it “refresh” recollections. In other words, the officer doesn’t have to remember anything to testify against you. In addition, you should expect that the officer won’t deviate much from what’s in the report. Any substantial deviations might sabotage the case against you. In this way, the police report becomes the roadmap for the prosecutor’s case.
What’s in the police report?
The report is the story of your arrest from beginning – why the officer initially became suspicious and stopped you – to the end – where you were transported to and booked. Usually, it contains enough information about the incident to justify arrest and conviction including objective observations about your driving (weaving in traffic), physical appearance (red, watery eyes), odor (alcohol on breath), speech (slurred), results of field sobriety tests such as the horizontal gaze test (eye twitch at less than 45%) and answers to the officer’s questions (Subject said he had one beer about an hour earlier.) The report will also have detailed information on any chemical tests administered by the officer including a complete printout of the test results (and even the serial number of the breath machine).
What to look out for?
It’s always possible that an officer may accidentally (or even intentionally) omit information that may benefit you. An officer may embellish or overstate the facts to make you appear much worse than you imagined yourself. For example, the report will likely say that your speech was slurred, your eyes were glazed and red, your clothing was disheveled, you had alcohol on your breath, you fumbled the license and registration, you staggered when you got out of the car, and you couldn’t stand on one leg without falling. You may find all of this offensive and an “amplification” of the actual situation. But fighting these characterizations by yourself is unlikely to acquit you of a DUI. To do that, you must challenge the police report for reasons such as the following:
- the validity of the PAS, blood, urine, or breath test (assuming it puts you at or over the .08 limit)?
- the accuracy of the field sobriety tests?
- Your ability to produce one or more solid witnesses (or other evidence such as photos or video) that convincingly contradicts one or more important aspects of the officers’ report
If you have trouble interpreting the police report, see our article, Interpreting the Police Report After a DUI Arrest.
How do you get your police report?
You can see your police report at your first court date – usually that’s the arraignment (It’s tough to obtain a copy before then). Alternatively, in some states you can request the police report from your DMV. In California, for example, you can have the DMV send you the report at least 10 days before any scheduled DMV hearings. Sometimes, the small print on your traffic citation or related paperwork will inform you how to obtain the police report.