DUI Police Reports - Real or Canned?
October 2nd, 2009
Every Washington State DUI arrest should be well documented in a DUI police report. DUI police officers receive special training in report writing so that they can testify fully when a DUI case is litigated in court. In past years, we have seen a few strange things regarding police report writing. A few officers had "canned" language in the police reports that was identical in every DUI arrest made by that officer. While that practice apparently is in the past, it can't be denied that the current police report forms emphasize "check box" observations so that an officer won't have to articulate what actually happened. It's easier to just check a box. The problem with this approach is that it can become a habit for officers to check the boxes in DUI preprinted police reports, so that a box might be checked even if it doesn't apply. The failure of most agencies to videotape arrests amplifies this problem. The police report form used by the Washington State Patrol when documenting a DUI arrest is actually posted on the State Patrol website; the Seattle DUI squad has no similar webpage although their officers use a similar form. Both forms have a number of "checkbox observations." The whole issue of police report writing is coming to a head in Vallejo, California. The news webpage nbcbayarea.com reports that the Vallejo Police Department is outsourcing the typing of police reports. The officer dictates the substance and the file is emailed out of state where it is typed. The article did not report on any safeguards to insure that the DUI police report reflects what actually happened in the DUI arrest. There are arguments on both sides of this practice, but it might be that a police report that is dictated by the DUI police officer soon after an arrest would be more accurate than a bare-bones report with "appropriate" boxes checked.
Our firm examines all evidence in a Washington State DUI with a critical eye. Experience shows that, especially in the case of a police report documented by the DUI officer checking boxes, favorable facts are often found through careful investigation - looking "behind" the report.