One of my favorite things is learning. I love to read. What's kinda of unusual are the books that pique my interest. I like reading things written for other professions, like police books and psychology books. I am not an aspiring law enforcement officer or psychologist but I am fascinated by those fields. It seems human interest is an underlying theme.
This summer I am reading a book written by a veteran cop on report writing. It is called "The Best Police Report Writing Book" by A.S. Michael.
He is a certified instructor for almost thirty years so I take it he has a wealth of knowledge and experience.
Why am I reading a book intended primarily for police officers?
How does that help me or our criminal/DWI defense clients?
Criminal Defense Attorneys Do Well to Put Their Heads into Law Enforcement Perspectives
Now as a criminal defense attorney I read lots of police reports and narratives but I have never been formally trained in their writing. Unfortunately law school has no police report writing class or police investigation class. You have to get that on your own. Most fields are like that, especially if you specialize which I believe is what the future holds to be excellent at anything.
Formally Trained in Medical Report Writing Post Chiropractic College
I have been formally trained in writing medical/chiropractic reports. But even this came after graduating chiropractic college, and practicing for a number of years. The truth is you must take many courses, read books, and study POST university education to really learn to do your job well.
I spent 10 years evaluating personal injury cases, assigning disability and permanent impairment numbers to thousands of people. Then that had to be applied in the real world to cases that went to hearings and courts.
I have been to many DWI programs that teach us to understand what goes into a proper investigation.
Knowing the elements that make up a good DWI investigation help us to understand what is in and what is NOT in their reports.
But in that same vein seeing the police perspective of composing, writing, and organizing what goes into a good report helps me in my job. After all I play defense, and picking apart the bad or inappropriate or improper parts of any report can help our clients.
A normal DWI/DWAI drugs investigation has the following elements:
1. VIM stands for "vehicle in motion" or a coming to a scene (accident or otherwise). Recently we had a parked car with it's music playing too loud as a reason for a police investigation.
2. STOP after the vehicle is moving. There is generally a STOP by the police of that vehicle for a reason (probable cause for a stop).
3. First Contact with the motorist. This is the coming to the window moment, face to face.
4. Request to Exit car if they desire more investigation and insight to your condition, physical and mental.
5. Testing at roadside. This is if you agree to it. The general three standardized field sobriety tests.
7. Booking and processing back at the station or barracks
We have to look at and study each phase of this process. There are steps that should be taken and noted. If they are blank, left out then that may be able to be used, some may say exploited.
Police sometimes don't do a great job of documenting their investigations and sometimes they are overly zealous. I have seen and read some great reports and narratives. When you see great police investigations you just have to applaud them.
Great Police DWI Investigations in Tompkins County and Ithaca, NY
I had a Tompkins County Deputy that even went to Apple Bees. He got a sales receipt from the bartender and took a written statement. He used all of that circumstantial evidence to bolster a felony DWI arrest. The case was unusual in that a motorist had an accident close to his apartment, left a piece of his bumper and car by the entrance. Then went home. The police knocked on his door and asked him to come outside (ill advised) he complied and was arrested in an intoxicated state. It's no wonder this excellent deputy has since moved up the ranks, and is one of their finest.
Accidents and DWI cases are kinda like peas and rice they seem to get along. I have had Ithaca Police go out and document road markings in the snow. They had the scraping of
the car's axle on the streets all the way to the guy's driveway straight from an car crash. He had hit and run into a car in his alleged drunken condition.
So there are some amazing and detailed investigations but the large majority are not, thank god.
In most situations understanding the dynamics and police perspectives behind report writing gives me insight into a better defense of the case.