Will the Judge read my police report?

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Is my police report going to land me in jail?

Almost every client I have ever had in my California criminal law practice has asked me the same question….Will the Judge read my police report?  Like all legal questions, the answer is “it depends”.  If you and your lawyer AGREE to allow the Judge to read the police report, then yes the Judge can review the report.   But if you are going to trial, the Judge hearing your trial will NOT read the police report.   And no one will ever be found guilty based on information in a police report.  The report is just that…..a report.  Nothing more, more nothing less.  And more importantly, it is NOT evidence.  We can use to the police report to get an idea of the information obtained from witnesses, dates and times, measurements, and the police officer’s version of the story.  Bet rest assured, the Judge will not be reading your police report to decide whether you are guilty or innocent.

California Penal Code 1204.5(a) The Law on use of a Police Report in a Criminal Court

Penal Code 1204.5(a) states that “In any criminal action, after the filing of any complaint or other accusatory pleading and before a plea, finding, or verdict of guilty, no judge shall read or consider any written report of any law enforcement officer or witness to any offense, any information reflecting the arrest or conviction record of a defendant, or any affidavit or representation of any kind, verbal or written, without the defendant’s consent given in open court, except as provided in the rules of evidence applicable at the trial, or as provided in affidavits in connection with the issuance of a warrant or the hearing of any law and motion matter, or in any application for an order fixing or changing bail, or a petition for a writ.
California Penal Code 1204.5(b) states “This section does not preclude a judge, who is not the preliminary hearing or trial judge in the case, from considering any information about the defendant for the purpose of that judge adopting a pre-trial sentencing position or approving or disapproving a guilty plea entered pursuant to Section 1192.5, if all of the following occur:
(1) The defendant is represented by counsel, unless he or she expressly waives the right to counsel.
(2) Any information provided to the judge for either of those purposes is also provided to the district attorney and to the defense counsel at least five days prior to any hearing or conference held for the purpose of considering a proposed guilty plea or proposed sentence.
(3) At any hearing or conference held for either of those purposes, defense counsel or the district attorney is allowed to provide information, either on or off the record, to supplement or rebut the information provided pursuant to paragraph (2).”

The Bottom Line on using a Police Report as evidence in California Criminal Court

Don’t panic about the contents of your police report.   And don’t be surprised that the police officer’s version of the story is different than your version.  Ultimately your case will be decided when a settlement has been reached, or when you proceed to trial.  At trial, the police report is not evidence.  The report, with very limited exceptions, will not be shown to the Judge or the jury during your trial.  If you have more questions about your police report in a California criminal case, send me an email at attorneygallagher@gmail.com and we can set up a confidential consultation over the phone or in my office.

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