If you have been pulled over for a traffic stop and a subsequent DWI investigation and arrest occur, then you know there is a lot that happens during this event. From the initial stop to the time you are booked, details of the event are recorded by the police in a report. Sometimes these details are very accurate and descriptive, other times these details are formulaic and incomplete. It takes experience reviewing these reports to be able to identify important pieces of information -- what's in the report just as much as what's missing in the report.
As one of the best DWI lawyers in Texas, Doug Murphy teaches other lawyers that police reports can be a key part in the development of your defense. To Doug Murphy, police reports are one of the initial steps in his investigation into your DWI case. Doug Murphy and his team thoroughly review the reports and identifies both key elements present and important pieces that are missing. From there, he will begin to develop a strategic defense. Having made a name for himself throughout Texas for his skill and experience in winning DWI cases, Doug Murphy uses police reports to your advantage.
What is in a Texas DWI police report?
A police report is a form or combination of forms that all officers must complete after a police incident. It provides details of what happened and the parties involved in the event. In these forms, there are specific questions and boxes for particular information as well as empty spaces where the officer is supposed to describe the event. In police reports you will find:
- Who was involved, including who was arrested, names of any witnesses, and names of police officers.
- What happened, including physical and mental observations of your person.
- Where the incident took place and where you were incarcerated and/or released from custody.
- When the incident happened, including the time the alleged incident happened to the time the officers arrived to the time of any booking
- Why you were arrested, including the crime you allegedly committed, like a traffic violation.
This information is standard, it's the details about this information that matters most. Your experienced attorney will want to ask and/or identify answers to the following from the DWI police report:
Questions about You
- What were your actions during the traffic stop?
- What were the specific observations the officer made about your appearance, behavior, and speech? For example, did you have bloodshot eyes? Were you belligerent or cooperative? Did you have slurred speech?
- Were you -- as the driver -- in physical control of the vehicle? (For instance, maybe you were sleeping in the back of the car and the officer was conducting a wellness check.)
- How did you respond to or perform on field sobriety tests and/or chemical tests?
Questions about the Scene
- Was there anything unusual about the traffic stop?
- If there were witnesses, who are they in relation to you and what did they say?
- Were there any specific weather conditions, road conditions, or traffic conditions at the time of the event?
- Was there an accident and any property damage or personal bodily injuries?
Questions about the Police
- What alerted the police to your vehicle and caused the officer to pull you over?
- Were field sobriety tests performed, and if so, which officer conducted it?
- What breath or blood tests were performed, and if so, which officer conducted it and was a warrant needed?
- Was a drug examination required, and if so, who performed the DRE?
- Did the officer provide you with the implied consent notice at an appropriate time of the DWI investigation?
- Who were each specific officer and what role did he or she play (e.g., arresting officer DRE officer)?
- Where did the officer transport your vehicle?
- What information did the police officer leave out of the report?
How can a Texas DWI police report be used to your benefit?
An experienced DWI lawyer in Houston should be able to take the information or lack thereof in a police report and use it strategically. The best way to understand how this can be done to your benefit is by example. Below are examples of how a DWI police report completed by an officer in Harris County or surrounding counties can be used to your benefit.
Provides a starting to point to connect all the pieces of your DWI puzzle.
The police report is a starting point. It provides the basics of the event and then some. An experienced attorney will listen to what you say happened and what the police say happened -- according to the police report -- and start putting together your defense.
- You say you were tired; the police report says you had bloodshot eyes.
- You say you have a health condition that affects your balance; the police report states you failed sobriety tests.
- You say you were sleeping off the alcohol in the backseat of the car; the police report says you were indeed in the back of the vehicle asleep.
- You say it was a rainy, dark night and the police were rude to you; the police report states nothing about the weather but you were uncooperative and refused a breath test.
From the police report and your statement to your attorney, statements can be aligned while contrary statements can be highlighted to look into later. The pieces of the story, however, start to come into the light and your attorney can begin building your case.
Provides information about and insight into the police officers.
The officer may write in great detail or may summarize what happened. In some cases, the officer may leave details of the incident blank. To some attorneys, limited details or empty spaces are problematic. They see it as an advantage for the prosecution. But for a DWI defense attorney up to the challenge, limited details and empty spaces are viewed as an opportunity. There are two specific ways this can work in your favor.
- Lock the officer into his or her story. With limited details of the event, the officer is left to memory to recall what exactly happened. Under intense cross-examination of the officer, your attorney can lock the officer into his or her story and if errors are made later, your attorney can use those errors to weaken the officer's version of events, and therefore, weaken the State's case against you.
- Identify poor performing officers. Officers are trained on how to complete a report properly. If the police report is not completed properly, then it may be indicative the officer is performing poorly elsewhere in his or her job. Maybe it was laziness, maybe it was a disregard to follow procedure, or maybe it was -- among other things -- actually not knowing how to complete the report properly. Whatever it is, an improperly completed police report can point your attorney to other areas of investigation that can help your case.
Provides names of all parties.
In addition to providing the names of the police officers present, the police report also provides names and information on potential witnesses. The attorney can use this information to identify these witnesses and pursue follow-up interviews or investigation into these persons, some of whom may either be witnesses against you or witnesses for you.
Provides information about the scene of the DWI event.
There's a lot happening at the scene of a DWI event. Whether its road conditions, weather, the behavior of all parties, among other conditions. These external and internal things can all play a role in what transpired, why it transpired, and how it transpired. It may or may not be important to your defense, but a good attorney will look into all aspects of your case for relevant, strategic information.
How are you able to view your own Texas DWI police report?
There are multiple ways to obtain your police report. First, in DWI cases, you may have access to a copy of your police report at an ALR hearing or at your arraignment. But if not, your attorney can request a copy of the police report. Alternatively, you can request one in person at the police department responsible for your arrest.
Contact the Best DWI Attorney for You in Harris County TX
In DWI cases, police reports are important. They can provide significant information. They can corroborate stories. They can highlight areas that need further investigation. They can contradict police officers. They can identify officers who may be performing poorly. Whatever the case may be, Doug Murphy will review your police report thoroughly and act where action is needed. He has the skills and resources to do so. Contact Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. today for a free initial consultation and learn more about how our legal team can help defend you against a DWI charge in Harris County or surrounding counties.