The testimony offered by a police officer is critical to the outcome of your DUI case. When an officer provides damaging testimony, it can deal a great blow to your defense if not properly responded to. For this reason, it is critical that you hire a Roswell Alpharetta DUI attorney who can adeptly challenge the testimony of a police officer. Police enjoy a unique sense of authority and already have the public's general trust. This carries over when they are on the witness stand, facing a dozen jurors who look to the officers for truth and objectivity. Jurors are inclined to take the statements of officers at face value. In their minds, these officers have no reason or incentive to lie on the stand or provide false testimony.
This is why police testimony carries such importance in a DUI case. Their statements can undermine your DUI defense if they are not challenged and discredited. Even if your lawyer has successfully repressed or challenged the state's blood and breath test evidence, a police officer's testimony may just be the factor that gets you convicted. Nevertheless, an experienced legal representative may be able to save your case by discrediting the officer's testimony. With so much riding on the testimony of a single individual, it is critical that you hire an attorney who can hold his or her own with a police witness and undo the damage done to your case after police testimony.
Why Is Police Testimony Important?
All testimony is subjective. Because they are under oath and in the courtroom setting, many presume that witnesses can only present factual information. However, testimony is almost always informed by the biases of the witnesses - subtle and overt. Their tone, opinion, and unique perceptions of an event will color the testimony they provide. If the jury has already assumed the witness's credibility, as they often do with police officers, then the impact of any potential bias may be amplified.
All witness testimony is critical in a DUI case, but there is more at stake when a police officer testifies against you. Police officers can be considered expert witnesses in DUI cases. This only enhances their credibility in the minds of jurors. Some officers may be seasoned expert witnesses. Others may not have the same courtroom confidence, but their testimony can be damaging regardless because of their standing.
How To Breakdown the Credibility of Police Testimony
Many police officers are simply not at home in the courtroom, and your DUI defense attorney can use this to his or her advantage. With the right legal maneuvering, your attorney may get the officer to contradict him or herself or say something that harms the State's case against you.
After they give their testimony, your lawyer will cross-examine the police officers. The prospect of cross-examination by an attorney can be intimidating, so officers are usually briefed on the goals and tactics of defense attorneys before taking the stand, precisely so they will not harm the State's case.
What are the objectives of cross-examination of a police witness?
- Attack or undermine the officer's credibility;
- Weaken or discredit damaging evidence and statements; and
- Bolster exculpatory evidence.
During their testimony, the officers will explain to jurors why they stopped your vehicle, what they observed, and why they saw fit to arrest you. Your attorney may be able to take their statements and actually use them to help your case. If, for example, the officer glosses over why he or she stopped your vehicle because he or she did not have good reason to do so, your lawyer may point this out upon cross-examination. If they had probable cause to pull you over but did not have reasonable suspicion to suspect you were intoxicated, this may also hurt the State's case.
Ultimately, it is the duty of your Roswell Alpharetta DUI attorney to pick apart and scrutinize the statements made against you by a police witness. If the officer has glossed over details or failed to provide solid reasoning behind a decision, your lawyer may jump on this oversight and call it to the attention of the jury during cross-examination. If dash cam footage is available, your lawyer may be able to contrast the dash cam footage with the statements of the officer, provided there are any relevant contradictions between the two.
Probing the Officer's Motivations to Testify
Your lawyer may also succeed in discrediting the officer's testimony by probing their true motivations for arresting and testifying against you. If the arrest was questionable, and the officer is now sitting in court providing testimony, your lawyer may ask if the officer is being paid overtime to testify. This can render the officer less trustworthy in the minds of jurors. Depending on your case, this strategy may not be available.
Contrasting Your Behavior With Worse Behavior
As the officer explains what they observed and why they arrested you, they will no doubt offer an account of your behavior in the lead up to the arrest. This could include your performance on field sobriety tests, motor skills and speech, for example. By contrasting your behavior with worse behavior, the jury may see it in a more positive light. For example, if the officer states that you took a misstep during a walk-and-turn test, your attorney may return with "He didn't fall down?" Such a contrast may lessen the negative impact of the officer's statement.
If possible, it can be incredibly helpful to your case to have the police witness impeached. Your attorney will be listening intently to their testimony for any statement with which your DUI defense lawyer can discredit and impeach them as a witness.