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How do errors on a police report affect a DUI case?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Mar 13, 2019 | 0 Comments

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Mistakes within a police report can have a significant impact on a DUI case – for the betterment of a person accused, or charged with, DUI. Mistakes could lead to charges getting reduced or even dismissed.

Errors on a police report could show any of the following:

  • no basis or probable cause for an initial stop (that led to the DUI),
  • police made inconsistent, misguided, or even false observations while conducting a field sobriety test, and/or
  • that a suspect was responsive and did not appear intoxicated.

All of these can help a defendant that is charged with driving under the influence in California.

Some places within the report to look for flaws include:

  • notes on driving behaviors or driving patterns prior to a stop,
  • notes and observations regarding the administration of a field sobriety test, and
  • the scores listed for a field sobriety test,

How can errors help a DUI case?

There are three main ways that a flaw in a police report can have a positive effect on a defendant's DUI case. These are when a flaw shows that:

  1. the police had no probable cause for stopping a person;
  2. the police misinterpreted the results of a field sobriety test, or made errors in conducting the test; and,
  3. a suspect in fact acted sober.

Any one of these mistakes could lead to evidence getting suppressed from a case and even charges getting dismissed or reduced.

What types of errors should a person look for in a police report?

Police reports contain much information. In the context of a DUI case, persons accused of the offense should look for errors in the following:

  • reasons given for an initial traffic stop,
  • notes on driving behaviors or driving patterns prior to a stop,
  • notes and observations regarding the administration of a field sobriety test,
  • the scores listed for a field sobriety test, and
  • overall observations recorded.

In general, administrative errors (e.g., mistakes in a name or description) will not significantly affect a case. However, if there are many types of these flaws, or there are other types of errors within the report, then they could all bring into question the officer's investigation as a whole. And, this could provide enough reasonable doubt as to an accused's guilt.

What are California Vehicle Code 23152(a) and 23152(b)VC?

California Vehicle Code 23152(a) is the California statute that makes it a crime for a person to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. "Under the influence" means that a person's physical or mental abilities are impaired to the extent that he can no longer drive as well as a cautious sober person.

California Vehicle Code 23152(b) also makes it a crime for a person to drive while intoxicated. The statute sets forth the "per se" definition of DUI, and states that a person is guilty of DUI if he is driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.

First, second and third DUI offense charges are prosecuted as misdemeanors in California. Penalties for a DUI conviction may include:

  • misdemeanor probation,
  • fines,
  • DUI school,
  • a driver's license suspension,
  • jail time, and
  • a requirement of installing an ignition interlock device on the offender's vehicle.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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