Criminal Court Process: “Pitchess Motion”In the State of California, a defendant going through the criminal court process has the ability to make a certain request known as a “Pitchess motion.” A “Pitchess motion” is legally defined as a request made by an alleged offender in order to obtain access to information concerning the police officer who arrested him or her to better help the defense’s case. The “Pitchess motion” came about through a 1974 California Supreme Court case, Pitchess v. Superior Court.

Understanding the California “Pitchess Motion”
The “Pitchess motion” process is now codified in California Evidence Code Section 1043, and it allows a defendant to ask to review the personnel file of a law enforcement officer. Typically, the pretrial process is the time when a California criminal defense attorney will file a “Pitchess motion.” The “Pitchess motion” frequently is made when the defense lawyer strongly believes police misconduct has taken place. This misconduct could include racial profiling; the use of excessive force; dishonesty in police reporting; or the coercing of a confession, for example. Perhaps, a California citizen has been charged with the crime of Driving Under the Influence. However, that charge may have come about after police misconduct, such as the use of excessive force. It then could be beneficial for the defense to file a “Pitchess motion” to uncover if it is common for this particular police department to use excessive force when charging individuals with crimes.

Going Through the “Pitchess Motion” Process in California
If a defendant and his or her California criminal defense attorney decide it is appropriate to begin the “Pitchess motion” process, the first step is to formally place a written “Pitchess motion” on file with the court handling the case. Additionally, the defense lawyer must turn in written notice of the “Pitchess motion” with the law enforcement agency keeping the personnel records being requested. According to California Evidence Code Section 1043, the “Pitchess motion” must include a description of the records being sought and documentation explaining why there is a good reason or good reasons for the records to be released to the defense. In accordance with California Evidence Code Section 1045, a private hearing, known as “in camera,” will take place if the judge decides there is good cause for the personnel records to be released to the defense.

Is a “Pitchess motion” Right For My Case?
The “Pitchess motion” process in California can be complicated to work through. It is important to have a highly knowledgeable criminal defense attorney working on your behalf, especially if you believe your case involves police misconduct. There is a great deal of work that needs to take place to achieve what the defense lawyer would like to when it comes to a case involving police misconduct. It is not always easy to obtain information on governmental agencies, including police departments, but a skilled criminal defense attorney is familiar with just how to make a successful “Pitchess motion” and fight for justice for his or her client. If you think a “Pitchess motion” could help your defense, contact the Law Office of Peter Blair today for a free consultation!