Police reports are used as evidence in DUI cases and the arresting officer will be called as a witness at trial.
Police officers will almost always be called to testify at a California DUI trial. The officer who arrested you is considered a crucial eyewitness to what happened. But this isn’t the only way an officer makes it into the proceedings—their statements in the initial police report are also considered, and an officer could also be called as a witness at the DMV hearing. The officer’s testimony is virtually always hostile to you. They would not have arrested you if they did not believe you were guilty of DUI. But their presence can work either both for and against you in some cases.
The reason police officers are vaunted witnesses is because they are generally seen as trustworthy and respectable. Police are public servants and people generally assume they will be truthful. In most cases that’s true—but police can also make mistakes, forget key details, or even have an outright bias.
The main tactic your DUI lawyer will use to counter the officer’s testimony is to look for proof that they are getting something wrong. They will compare the officer’s testimony against other sources:
- Does the officer say something different now than they did in the original police report?
- Do other witnesses have a different version of what happened?
- Is there video footage that shows that the officer is wrong?
- Did the officer say something different at the DMV hearing?
This last one is often the most important. When you have your driver’s license hearing with the DMV, your lawyer is allowed to call the arresting officer as a witness. This is a rare chance in the legal system to hear what a hostile witness has to say before your trial. If their story changes at the trial itself, it’s a powerful blow in your favor.
If your lawyer can show that the officer’s account cannot be trusted, a jury may decide you didn’t commit DUI after all.
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