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Jim Reilly
Jim Reilly, Crim Defense Atty
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 1801
Experience:  CA Atty since 1976, primarily criminal law. 150+ jury trials.
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Can police reports (witness statements) be used as evidence

Customer Question

Can police reports (witness statements) be used as evidence? If not, can they be brought in when examining the officer at trial? For example, an investigator had interviewed a witness at a crime scene. The witness is unavailable for trial. May text from the investigator's report/notes be referenced in court to confirm the information the investigator collected during his conversations with the witness? So if a witness says that she saw a bearded man at the crime scene but she is not available for trial - may the defense ask the investigator about the bearded man referred to in the report? If she gives a deposition at which both defense/prosecution are present can her info be brought in then? What if she is only deposed by the prosecution, can the info be brought in?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Criminal Law
Expert:  INFOLAWYER replied 5 years ago.
they can be used for for truth and for impeachment. usually the officer will testify as to what he wrote and that its accurate first.
Expert:  Jim Reilly replied 5 years ago.

Defendants in criminal cases have the right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against them. Allowing the police officer to testify as to what a non-appearing witness told him would violate the defendant's right to confront and cross-examine that witness. With very few exceptions, this is not permissible.

 

Furthermore, the statements of a witness to a police officer which are recorded in a police report would be hearsay if offered into evidence at trial and would, with some exceptions none of which would appear to apply here, be inadmissible for that reason.

 

In criminal cases, there are usually no pre-trial depositions. There are some limited circumstances under which a sworn statement may be taken from a witness (such as when the witness is dying and will not survive until the trial) and used at trial. If the defendant has already been charged, this will be done with attorneys for both sides present. If no defendant has yet been identified, it can be done by the prosecution alone and perhaps used at trial (after a big fight against it by the defense attorney).

 

If a witness testified in some previous hearing in the criminal case (such as a preliminary hearing in a felony) and the prosecution can demonstrate that the witness is unavailable to testify at trial, despite diligent efforts to secure the attendance of the witness, the preliminary hearing testimony may be admissible.

 

Police officers can testify only to what they saw and what physical evidence they gathered. Generally speaking, they cannot testify to what is in their police reports unless their original testimony is impeached in some way and the report can rehabilitate the testimony; or, if they cannot remember some detail which is otherwise admissible, they can use the report to refresh their recollection or to read from as a "past recollecton recorded".

 

Jim Reilly
RunTam38

 

Jim Reilly, Crim Defense Atty
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 1801
Experience: CA Atty since 1976, primarily criminal law. 150+ jury trials.
Jim Reilly and 6 other Criminal Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I received a more complete, comprehensive reply but, thank you for your time.
Expert:  Jim Reilly replied 5 years ago.

Thank you for the accept.

 

Jim Reilly

 

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Just so we are clear - I did accept your answer - it was the more complete, comprehensive one that I received. I hope the person who sent the short response got my reply. Thank you so much Jim
Expert:  Jim Reilly replied 5 years ago.
Yes, your intent was clear, understood and applied as you wanted. You're welcome and I'm happy to have been able to help.

Jim Reilly

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