A Pitchess Motion allows you to make a formal request in order to access a police officer’s employment and disciplinary records.
Your criminal defense lawyer may be able to help your case by using a Pitchess Motion to attack the credibility of an arresting officer in cases of police misconduct. If your motion is granted, then it may be a valuable bargaining chip and the prosecution might be willing to reduce or even dismiss the charges against you.
The law recognizes that you have the right to any evidence that may assist in your defense that is deemed relevant to you defense.
In a landmark case, the California Supreme Court said that this applies to officer personnel files. 1 However, California recognizes an equally compelling interest in protecting the privacy rights of police officers.
Therefore, a judge must weigh both these interests in determining whether you should have access to the officer’s personnel information. 2
When to Apply for a Pitchess Motion
It makes sense for your criminal defense attorney to file a Pitchess Motion when you have a good faith belief that police misconduct had a material effect in charges being filed against you. 3 Some common examples of police misconduct where you may obtain officer records are where a police officer has a history of using excessive force, falsifying police reports or using questionable methods to coerce a confession.
Pitchess Motions are particularly effective in cases where the officer’s testimony is central to getting a conviction; or where it is questionable whether police had probable cause to arrest you.
Pitchess Motion and Battery Against a Peace Officer (PC 243c)
Under California evidentiary rules, you are allowed to introduce evidence of a victim’s character if prior acts or their reputation is relevant to show that they may have acted that same way during your arrest. 4
If an officer uses excessive force, you are allowed to use a reasonable amount of force to defend yourself. An officer’s prior history of excessive force would thus be relevant in establishing your defense if you are charged with PC 243(c). Similarly, other alleged crimes where a Pitchess Motion might be applicable are:
- Resisting/Obstructing/Delaying Peace Officer (Cal. Penal Code § 148(a)(1))
- Assault (Cal. Penal Codes §§ 240/241(b))
- DUI 5
Process for Filing and Obtaining a Pitchess Motion (Evidence Code 1043, 1045)
In order to bring a Pitchess Motion, your attorney must make a written request to the court or agency where information is sought and give written notice to that agency.
Evidence Codes 1043 and 1045 state specific requirements that must be complied with in order to bring a Pitchess Motion. Your motion must include the following:
- Identifying information about you and your case, the name of the officer whose files you are seeking, the name of the agency at which such records are held, and the time/place where your lawyer will be present to obtain the records;
- Exactly what documentation or files you’re seeking; and
- An affidavit with specific facts showing good cause for why you need the officer’s personnel records as it relates to your case.
Call the Experienced and Skilled Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime and you believe police misconduct was involved, you need to contact an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney immediately. The sooner you are represented, the sooner your can arrange to have your skilled lawyer start saving you time and money by appearing for you in court.
At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled attorneys have been successfully defending clients facing criminal charges in Southern California for over 30 years. We will meet with you immediately to review the facts of your case, and plan a defense strategy that will help you get the very best outcome possible.
With offices located in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.
1. [Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531]↩
3. [Cal. Evid. Code § 1045]↩
4. [Cal. Evid. Code § 1103(a)(1)]↩