Often, in criminal cases, police testimony is critical to a conviction. The government relies on the fact that people have a healthy respect for law enforcement. Sometimes, this respect for the police spills over into believing their testimony without question.
In a criminal case, an experienced criminal defense attorney is critical. Building a defense which involves questioning the accuracy of police testimony is essential in many criminal cases. The facts of a given case will always dictate the defense. However, there are certain common tactics that an experienced criminal defense attorney will use in every case where the integrity of the police testimony is challenged.
In a DUI case, often the only witness to the offense is the police officer who pulled the person over. Attacking police credibility is essential throughout the trial.
During Jury Selection
Planting the seeds of doubt begins in jury selection. Jurors are not allowed to believe the testimony of police officers over other witnesses solely because they are police officers. Instead, jurors must carefully consider the testimony of police officers in the context of all the facts and circumstances of the case, just as they would for any other witness.
Independent Recollection, or Relying on Police Reports?
When a police officer is testifying, they often have their police reports with them on the stand. In almost every case, they have, at a minimum, reviewed their police reports before testifying. The truth is, in the months that have passed between the time of the alleged offense and the date the officer is testifying, the officer has issued hundreds of tickets and participated in even more traffic stops. It is difficult to imagine the officer has independent recollection of the particular stop at issue.
Template for Police Reports
Often, police rely on a template when filling out police reports. Instead of writing a new report for each DUI offense, officers insert the same phrases, time and again. These phrases might include:
- Bloodshot, watery eyes
- Slurred speech
- An odor of alcohol
Cross examination can establish these are common terms for DUI cases, not necessarily a reflection of the facts in a given case.
Compare and Contrast
Officers often testify about a person's ability to complete field sobriety tests. They present “failures” as proof of intoxication. The truth is, these tests are not easy to accomplish even under the best of circumstances. After extracting from the officer the details of the test, a DUI defense attorney can then clarify for the jury the significance, or lack thereof, of “failing” a test. For example, when a person is asked, at three in the morning, to walk heel to toe for ten steps in one direction, pivot on their toes, and then walk heel to toe back, a single instance of not aligning heel to toe doesn't really seem like such a failure. Where a person is asked to tip their head back, close their eyes, and then touch their finger to their nose, a DUI attorney can demonstrate the challenges of such a maneuver.
If You are Facing DUI Charges...
If you are facing DUI charges, don't go it alone. DUIs come with serious short term and long term consequences. You need an Atlanta DUI attorney to assist you with your case. Contact us today for a free consultation.