Using A Pitchess Motion to Strengthen Your Defense
Much like the Suppression Motion (described in another link), the Pitchess Motion is a Pre-Trial Motion which can be used to strengthen an individual's defensive position in a jury trial.
In the case of a Pitchess Motion your attorney will be demanding access to the arresting officers personnel file. The justifications for filing this motion including the following:
To find anything in the form citizen's complaints, internal investigations, official reprimands and/or other departmental actions that would assist defense in bringing into question the credibility of the officers actions, experience, training, past conduct and finally the weight of his testimony.
For those who recall the murder trial of OJ Simpson, it was through a Pitchess Motion that the Simpson Defense Team discovered Detective Mark Fuhrman's action of prejudice against blacks while acting both within and outside the scope of his duties as a Los Angeles Police Officer. It was through the discovery of this inflammatory information that allowed the defense to anchor doubt to the testimony of Detective Mark Fuhrman. Through this doubt, evidence uncovered which included a blood stained glove found at the Simpson residence was also brought into questions. Did Detective Mark Fuhrman plant the glove there? Without a Pitchess Motion, the question may have never been raised.
The Pitchess process stems from a prior California Supreme Court ruling in the matter of Pitchess v. Superior Court. Today, Pitchess has been made part of California's Evidence Code. The information if any that the defense would be allowed to view must be considered relevant the defense's case. Of these relevant items, most commonly admissible would be a history of racial bias, false arrest, falsifying evidence, harassment and discrimination or even his own criminal conduct.
In a DUI case, information the defense hopes to discover would include any investigation that had previously been filed against the arresting office for any of the following: Filing false police reports, improperly obtaining evidence, conducting himself in a manner so threatening that it has cause the defendant to feel compelled by force to cooperating with the officer's voluntary investigation, Discriminatory acts including discrimination against Gender, Race, Sexual Orientation, Religion, Color, Ancestry, etc.
In a successful Pitchess Motion, the judge will thoroughly review the relativity of the documents you seek access. The search will include the officer(s) complete personnel file. This is commonly done in the judge's chambers without significant involvement from either the prosecutor or the defense attorney. However, an attorney for the police office will be present at this stage and will protect the interest of the officer and the officer's agency. While giving consideration to the rights of the officer to maintain his privacy, the judge will release what he or she determines to be the pertinent documents which are relative to your case and for which foundation has been properly laid to support each documents necessity. This process is not an easy one to succeed at and as such will typically requires an experienced criminal defense attorney to lead the way. In past cases, David Welch has been successful in conducting his client's Pitchess motions and has uncovered documents which he ultimately used in the defendants trial.