Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Ithaca Cortland Lawyer "Of Police Reports, Accident Reports, and Tickets"

You would think that after all these years that we would all have some agreement on just what a police report is. Agreement is a good place to start. How often have people lodged protracted wars against one another and it turns out they were talking about two different things entirely? We must agree on at least the terms otherwise we will wind up fighting over or disagreeing about different things entirely.

In truth, terms, words, and what things are or are not often get confused. This is especially true in the areas of medicine and law. Archaic words with French and Latin origins are used to describe very basic concepts. People sometimes take offense when I stop them, correct them, or attempt to explain what things are. But how can we discuss anything without at least agreeing to what things are (and what they are called)?

An Accident Report is a report complied by law enforcement in the event of an incident involving people and/or property damages. Sometimes people call this a "police" report. It can range from one page to many pages. They can become very involved. Sometimes if the accident warrants it (complicated liability, high property and/or people damages) the police will bring in an accident reconstruction expert. An additional report will be generated. This will take into consideration vehicle weights, road surfaces, weather, vehicle speeds, directions of travel, road debris, skid marks, yaw marks, etc. Rules of physics, coefficients of friction, equations, formulas, and then a conclusion of what they believed occurred.

A police report can be obtained by the injured parties or their attorneys. It is a public record.

A Police Report is a report concerning a crime. It is not just given out to people. It usually is generated (written, compiled, and reviewed) days after the event (arrest). It will generally be in a narrative format. Most are between two to four pages on DWI cases. Some are very well written but many are canned (using a skeleton format). Some officers with experience know how to describe and explain things better. This clarity helps the prosecution's case. Reports that use vague terms, words, and descriptors are rife for challenge.
An attorney will make a demand for the police report at the arraignment (initial appearance) along with a request for all other discovery documents to be used against you. When charged with offenses (they may or may not be crimes) you will be given a series of appearance tickets (explained below). In addition to these tickets in DWI cases, you may or may not receive a long form (11x 14) generally green in color (says 710.30 on top). This is the cursory outline of how the police have PC (probable cause) to make the arrest. It is a check off list (little boxes).

Your police report can be obtained by you under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIL Request). Generally it is best for an attorney to obtain the report and all other documents through a discovery demand upon the District Attorney's office. Discovery demands are supposed to be met within 15 days.

NOTE: In Tompkins County they regularly send out a full discovery packet post arrest to the defendant. This is an unusual practice. In the other 7 counties in which I practice (none do this). They (Tompkins) have an open file policy. In many other counties even the police report is a sacred and ominous record (not given out lightly).

Tickets are also called UTTs (uniform traffic tickets). They are those weird sized pieces of paper. Like 4 inches by 7 inches. They can be carbons, very flimsy and thin, barely paper. They state the date, time, place, and type of infraction (violation level, misdemeanor level, or felony level). They are also referred to as an appearance ticket because they state a time and place for YOU to appear for Court. Usually accompanying UTTs are a supporting deposition. This may or may not contain a 710.30 (statements to be used against you). The supporting deposition is the police short form to state under oath how and why they decided to charge you.

So there you have it, when someone asks you for the report, you can ask them to clarify that request.

Lawrence Newman, D.C., J.D.
Doctor of Chiropractic
Attorney at Law

504 North Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850