There are dozens, if not hundreds, of police reports filed in Minnesota each day. These vary in nature on the basis of the matter in question, as well as on the officer writing the report.
If you’ve been arrested for a DWI offense, your first instinct might not be to think about the police report that was filed on the incident. However, this document could end up being crucial to the outcome of your case.
A Minnesota DWI police report will cover the technical details of what happened, as well as the perceptions of the officer (or officers) present. If there are inconsistencies, they could have the potential to derail the prosecutor’s case. That’s why careful analysis of the police report is often the first step for lawyers defending a DWI charge.
What’s in a DWI Police Report?
A police report details events that lead to charges from the point of view of the arresting officer. DWI police reports must usually contain all of the following:
- A description of the reason why the defendant was initially pulled over, such as poor driving or excessive speed.
- An account of the behavior that led the arresting officer to believe the defendant was inebriated.
- A breathalyzer test result, if a test was conducted. It is an offense to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more.
- Accounts of the performance of the defendant on field sobriety tests. The three tests that Minnesota police officers conduct are the walk and turn, the one-leg stand, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus.
How Police Reports Relate to Your Minnesota DWI Case
Generally speaking, police reports are not treated as evidence; the court will not look at them when deciding whether to convict a defendant of a DWI infringement. They do, however, give defense attorneys a good idea of what an arresting officer is likely to say during testimony. They also indicate the evidence that will be introduced at trial. Police reports therefore often guide the formation of a defense lawyer’s argument.
Objective vs Subjective Police Reporting
DWI police reports contain certain details which are objectively verifiable, such as the speed at which they recorded you traveling or the results of your breathalyzer test. However, they also require officers to exercise their judgment when reporting on some aspects of the incident. For example, descriptive language is often required when officers are recounting the reason for the initial stop. If an attorney can show that the officer is exaggerating when making this description, this will damage the prosecution’s case.
Also, if there was more than one officer at the scene of the arrest, each will have to provide a separate recounting of events. If there are significant differences between each account of the offense, this will make a court less likely to rely on the police testimony as a whole.
Common DWI Police Report Errors
There are some issues that arise frequently in relation to DWI police reports which can work in favor of a defendant. These include:
- Failure to establish probable cause. If the arresting officer had no reason to stop you, your arrest was unlawful.
- Inaccurate reporting of field sobriety tests. Especially if video recordings are inconsistent with what’s written in the police report.
- Inconsistencies in the reporting of events. If the officer’s story isn’t credible, it’s less likely to lead to a conviction.
Generally speaking, technical errors (such as a mistake in recording an address) likely will not be sufficient to undermine the reliability of the police report for a DUI arrest.
Understanding DWI Police Reports
Unless there is video/audio recordings available, attorneys rely largely on police reports to paint a picture of the events that lead to a traffic stop arrest. If there is an obvious weakness in the case of the prosecutor, it’s usually to be found in the police report.
Of course, finding weaknesses like these isn’t always easy. An inexperienced or careless attorney could miss a crucial detail that would secure an acquittal. Contact us today to discuss your case and get diligent, experienced legal representation on your side.