In every criminal case, there are a series of police reports written by officers who were somehow involved in the case. No matter how much or how little work a police officer may have done on the case, the work is documented in those reports.
DUI defense attorneys often use the facts (or the absence of certain facts) to challenge the sufficiency of the State's case and defend those charged with crimes. In this way, police reports can be an important part of your DUI case in Alpharetta-Roswell, Georgia.
Examining the Basis of the Traffic Stop in Alpharetta-Roswell, GA
Most DUI cases begin with police stopping a car. When an officer stops a vehicle in Georgia, there are limits to when, where, what, why, and how. One of those limits has to do with when and under what circumstances an officer can stop a car in the first place. Each police report must be reviewed to determine the facts that led to the stop of the car. Common reasons police stop cars include:
- Crossing the fog line
- Failing to signal a turn
- Turning from the wrong lane
- Driving with lights off at nighttime.
In addition to reading the police reports to ensure a constitutional basis for the stop, a vigorous defense requires examining the squad car video to confirm the police reports accurately reflect the alleged driving conduct.
Examining the Time of the Stop
In Georgia, it is illegal to have a certain blood alcohol concentration within three hours of driving or being in physical control of a vehicle. The time of the stop, then, can be critical. Alcohol is processed in the body in a predictable manner. In the right case, the time of the stop, and the subsequent collection of blood, breath, or urine can be of critical importance to the defense of the case.
Examining the Interaction Between Police and the Driver
Once a vehicle is pulled over, the law limits the type and amount of questioning an officer may engage in. Each stop is dictated by the events as they unfold. For example, if the police officers pull someone over for speeding, and they have no additional suspicions of criminal activity, they are not allowed to expand the search.
On the other hand, if a driver is slurring his or her speech, not following police directives, is acting in an otherwise suspicious manner, the police may have a basis to investigate further. In every case, a careful reading of the police reports is required. Next, the reports must be compared to the squad video, when one is available.
Assessing Field Sobriety Tests
In most DUI cases, the police ask drivers to perform a series of field sobriety tests at the side of the road. Police believe these tests can assist them in determining whether someone might be intoxicated. Of course, there are several defenses to failing a field sobriety test, but those are the topic of another post. Police reports should be carefully reviewed to ensure the tests were adequately explained to the driver. Next, the results of the tests should be documented in the reports. These should similarly be reviewed for accuracy.
Obtaining the Names of Witnesses
In some cases, there may be a car accident that led police to the scene. In these cases, police reports include the names of witnesses and potential witnesses. Witnesses can be an excellent source of additional information in certain cases. They can also confirm or dispute the representations of police in the police reports. Because witnesses can provide valuable insights, their contact information, often found in police reports, can be essential to a DUI defense in Georgia.
Not every police officer writes a report in every case. For example, if one officer arrived at the scene in order to supervise the tow of one or more vehicles, he or she may not feel compelled to write a report. This does not, however, mean the officer does not have any information that may be helpful to the defense. By reading the police reports, an attorney may be able to identify police officers who didn't write a report, even though they were present at the scene.
Establishing a Chain of Custody
Evidence is admissible at trial only if it meets certain legal requirements. One legal requirement is the “chain of custody.” In order to meet the chain of custody requirements, the government must show a complete and unbroken chain of who had contact with the evidence.
Imagine, for example, a set of car keys. Officer A removes the keys from the ignition. Officer C takes the keys from Officer B and puts them in an Evidence Bag. Officer C takes the keys to the crime lab and gives them to Lab Analyst D. Lab Analyst D testifies he performed DNA testing on the keys, and found a mixture of DNA from two or more people, including the alleged driver. But how did Officer B obtain the keys? Without an explanation for how the keys got from Officer A to Officer B, the chain could be "broken." This makes it subject to a legal challenge of admissibility.
If You Are Facing DUI Charges
If you are facing DUI charges, you may be feeling lost, helpless, and alone. Our Roswell and Alpharetta DUI attorneys have the experience necessary to defend you against these charges. With the experience of a former DUI prosecutor, the firm uses that knowledge to advocate tirelessly for those charged with DUI. Whether this is your first DUI or you have one or more prior convictions, we work with you to determine what defenses are most applicable to your current situation. Contact us at 404-816-4440 for a free consultation. Our attorneys are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to discuss your case with you.