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Obtaining Police Personnel Files for Criminal Defense

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Obtaining Police Personnel Files for Criminal Defense

When a defendant is involved in an altercation with the police, it is very important to impeach the credibility of the officer if the officer was lying.

The judge will presume that police officers are telling the truth even if eye witnesses state otherwise. In order to prove that the police's statement was not accurate, defendants should request the police officer's personnel records.

What Will Police Personnel Records Show?

The police personnel records will show the officer's employment record at the police station. It will have the officer's performance reviews and any negative behavioral problems (i.e. using excessive force or fabricating statements). Moreover, it will show whether the public has made any complaints about the officer and whether the officer was involved in similar altercations.

The defendant will attempt to use these records to impeach the officer. In other words, the defendant will use the records to show that the officer has a history of lying or acting in an improper manner. As a result, the defendant is telling the truth and should not be convicted of the crime in question.

How Can I Request the Records?

The defendant can obtain the personnel records by simply filing a citizen complaint with the police department. The defendant must allege what the police officer did wrong in the citizen complaint. The police department will then turn over the requested records to the defendant.

What If the Government Refuses to Give the Records?

Unfortunately, the police department will not turn over all police personnel records. They must have a compelling reason to do so. If there is not a compelling reason, the police department has the right to deny the request. At that point, the defendant may file a motion with the court to obtain the personnel files. The motion must include the basis to why the defendant wants them. Most states will grant the motion if the judge finds that the file will be relevant to the defendant's defense.

Consulting an Attorney

If you believe that the police officer in your case acted wrongfully, please consult a criminal defense lawyer. The lawyer will attempt to get the police's personnel records to prove that the police is not credible. Thus, the charges against you may be reduced or dropped.

Photo of page author Mabel Yee

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 03-10-2015 10:13 AM PDT

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