In criminal and traffic defense, a common complaint from an accused individual or their family is that the arrest affidavit, arrest report, accident report or citation contains one or more errors. For example, if there is a DUI accusation with a child in the car but the officer marks on the DUI citation that there were no passengers under the age of 18 or marking “no injury” on a traffic ticket in a case involving a near fatality. (actual examples). The ugly truth is that the police, deputies and troopers filling out these documents are people too, and they make mistakes. Unfotunately, typographical or similar errors will usually not lead to a case being dismissed.
In general, mistakes on an arrest report or citation, while indicative of a lack of attention to detail, do not win the case. This is because these documents are not evidence; they are memorialization of the witnesses’ statements and information. Arrest or accident reports are a memory tool for the prosecution of a case.
A crash, accident or arrest report can in fact be hearsay and any diagrams are usually based on hearsay or privileged communications and therefore these can be excluded from evidence. These documents rarely come into play at an actual trial or hearing. In addition, traffic infraction citations can be amended at any time until the hearing begins and any charging document in a criminal case will supersede the criminal traffic citation. An amendment or superseding document ends the error.
Mistakes can be indicative of a problem or weakness but could also simply be a typographical error. Mistakes in reports that are completed at or near the time of an incident whether an accident or arrest report, will rarely be the reason a case is won or dismissed. This is because what really matters is the evidence presented in court at a trial or hearing where a case is to be defended. Usually you will have to wait until an error is presented to the fact finder in a trial or hearing, to take advantage in your litigation. (see the just arrested blog for more)
These comments are aimed at incident reports, accident reports, arrest reports, and traffic infraction citations made at or near the time of an incident because, these documents can be amended and are generally not evidence. There are other documents in criminal and civil cases where mistakes can matter a great deal. However, that still depends on the error and the extent to which your opposition will rely on the mistake. There really is no way to know until the witness is speaking on the stand.
Trial strategy and preparation are tricky and time consuming. Whether the error in the case is meaningful or meaningless can turn on a single word in trial or hearing. Please click, call or fill out the form to see how we can help form a strategy in your case.