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Law Educator, Esq.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 88415
Experience:  JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
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I would presume I need the police report for an incident Im

Resolved Question:

I would presume I need the police report for an incident I'm going to take to small claims court. I live in DE, incident was in PA. I made all the phone calls. I'm told that the report needs to be subpoeanaed and only by a lawyer. I was not planning on using a lawyer. Is this for real?
Submitted: 9 months ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 9 months ago.
Thank you for your question. I look forward to working with you to provide you the information you are seeking.

A police report is public record unless it is an open case. You do not need a subpoena for a public record, you need to make a public records request under the Freedom of Information Act. Pennsylvania courts have determined that police incident reports are public records. See Tapco, Inc . v. Township of Neville, 695 A.2d 460 ( Pa. Cmwlth. 1997).

Thus, you need to make a FOIA request to the record department of the department that took the report and you can obtain the report. No subpoenas are needed and I do not know why the police department would tell you that.




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Customer: replied 9 months ago.

PA State police both in Harrisburg and Avondale told me the same, they do not release police reports. I knew this was going to be a big pain in the a.., everything is these days.


I sure got some bogus info then. Didn't make sense to have a lawyer subpoeana this report. I haven't even filed yet.



What is a FOIA report and how do I go about getting this done?

Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 9 months ago.
Thank you for your response.

The law says that if it is not an open investigation, the police reports are available by filing a FOIA request, which is simply a written request for the reports under the PA public records law. If they refuse to release it as a public record, then I am afraid that means you have to go to court to sue them for the report. The request goes to the police department's record room.

However, in this small claims case if you have witnesses or any other evidence, you might be able to proceed without having to fight them over this public record request.
Customer: replied 9 months ago.

Sue for the report? That's ludicrous. I mean, is this FOIA a special form, letter, etc.? Need specifics. Would I need the report. Long story short: Neighbor/friend(?) has my lawn tractor chained to a tree in his back yard. Says I owe him for something he did that I had no knowledge of. He was pissed in general and was trying to get back at me because I was going to take the tractor back home. He offered to display this tractor for sale as he is near the main road. He would not display the sign that had my price and contact info. Was going to try to sell it as his own. I'd probably never see a dime for it.


 

Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 9 months ago.
Thank you for you response.

Sue for violating the public records law, but it can be more time than it is worth, even though it is an option legally. There is no special FOIA form or report, it is a letter specifically stating the report you are seeking and stating that you are requesting it under the Public Records Law, the case I cited above and the Freedom of Information Act. It goes to the record room of the department that took the report.

No, you do not need a police report for the situation you describe. It is his word claiming you owe him something against your word and any evidence you have that you do not owe him anything. This is a civil property dispute, so the police report is not likely to be of any real value to you in this case.
Customer: replied 9 months ago.

Thought I might need a report just to prove that it happened. He could say he doesn't even have my tractor now. He chained it to a tree and removed the hood, I think trying to disguise it as he has multiple lawn tractors scattered about his backyard in all states of repair.

Expert:  Law Educator, Esq. replied 9 months ago.
Thank you for your response.

He might be able to claim he no longer has it, but you can take pictures to prove he does if you want, plus you have your testimony he does have it and if you have any witnesses they too can testify he has it. You do not need a police report to prove that.
Law Educator, Esq., Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 88415
Experience: JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
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