Using a Police Report in Cross-examination

Posted by Richard Lawson | Nov 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

In a recent trial, I used the deficiencies in the incident report to help secure an acquittal for my client.  Understanding how police officers think and are trained can make all the difference in a client's case.

The first thing a Georgia DUI Lawyer needs to understand is that police officers rarely put in their reports the things a DUI suspect does correctly.  Thus, their recollection of events is inherently exaggerated in a negative way.  

For example, the report may read that a person had a strong odor of alcohol on their breath, they were unsteady on their feet, and that they did poorly on field sobriety testing.  Assuming the truth of all those factors, it may sound bad for the accused.  However, a skilled Georgia DUI Attorney will automatically see that something fishy is going on!

Police officers are trained to list everything a suspect does wrong on their reports.  To only notate three physical manifestations will likely mean to me that the client did many things correctly.  This will become the basis of my cross-examination. 

My cross-examination would focus on the following:

  • The fact that client responded immediately to the blue lights and pulled over safely
  • The ability of the client to provide their license and insurance
  • The fact that the client was able to follow directions
  • The manner in which the client exited the vehicle safety
  • The appearance that the client's speech was not slurred
  • The fact that the client was non-combative with the police officer

Anyone can see that a complete police report should have included the things the accused did correctly.  I have yet to see such a report and doubt I ever will.  I will assure my readers that if my clients did poorly on the above-listed items, it would appear in the report. 

Practice Note to Police Officers:

To my police officer friends, in your effort to convict our clients being incomplete on a police report makes your look like you are more interested in a conviction than a truthful report of what happened.  After you make an arrest, you are not an advocate; you are a witness.  The prosecutor is the advocate representing the state.  

The best police witness I have ever seen was my friend John O'Brien from the White County Sheriff's Office.  I met him as a prosecutor, and I also went up against him as a defense attorney

John always told the truth and never exaggerated.  He never made up facts and was happy to tell a jury the things he did not know.  

The result is that John O'Brien always won his cases.  I never lost a case with him as the prosecutor and never beat him as a defense attorney.  Even better, we have been friends for 21 years.  He recently retired, and I will miss him.  

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


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