Saturday, November 23, 2013

Short Primer On Pitchess Motions

The defendant in a criminal case may obtain information regarding citizen complaints of specific assaultive behavior, prejudice or other misconduct on a particular officer's part, and the reports of internal police investigations of those complaints.   The Defense may also obtain discovery about any discipline imposed as a result of the internal police investigations.  Information subject to disclosure is not limited to cases involving altercations between officers and arrestees, but may include other evidence of misconduct that is material to the subject matter in the pending litigation.  The standard governing the discovery of personnel records is not whether the information discovered is ultimately admissible at trial, but whether the records are material to  the subject matter in the pending criminal case. 

According to Bakersfield DUI Attorney Bruce Blythe , the standard for a trial court to grant a Pitchess motion is a "relatively relaxed standard."   The defendant must file a motion supported by affidavits showing "good cause for the discovery," first by demonstrating the materiality of the information to the pending litigation, and second by "stating upon reasonable belief" that the police agency has the records or information at issue. These requirements are set forth in the Penal Code. This two-part showing of good cause is a "relatively low threshold for discovery." In many DUI cases, the defense need not present affidavits since the "good cause" required can be found directly from the attached reports.