Los Angeles Pitchess Motions
As part of the pretrial process for a defendant who has been charged with a felony or misdemeanor offense, it may be appropriate to file a Pitchess motion in cases where the defense believes that the defendant was the victim of some form of police misconduct, including excessive force, racial profiling, coerced confession, planted evidence or a false police report. When the defendant has grounds to believe that he or she was the victim of official misconduct, a Pitchess motion requests a review of the involved officer’s personnel file. This evidence can be critical when mounting a police misconduct defense.
The defense would submit a written Pitchess motion to the Court and must provide notice to the agency that controls the personnel records sought. The motion must identify the case, defendant, officer involved and relevant law enforcement agency, a description of the records that are sought, a showing of “good cause” justifying the release of the personnel records and proof that the defense has notified the relevant law enforcement agency of the Pitchess motion.
Typically, the biggest hurdle in a Pitchess motion is the showing of good cause that the defense is required to make. Usually this is accomplished with an affidavit that describes the facts of the defendant’s case, the alleged misconduct and reasons why the misconduct is material to the defendant’s case. There may be cases where the officer’s misconduct may have had no effect on the defendant’s case. In these situations, the judge will likely deny the defendant’s Pitchess motion.
If the judge finds that there is good cause to support the Pitchess motion, the Court would then hold an “in camera” review of the officer’s personnel file. This review is conducted privately in the judge’s chambers. The judge will review the file to see if there is any material relevant to the defense. The prosecutor and defense counsel are not present during this in camera review. The only parties who can attend this review are the officer involved, a representative for the agency involved or other parties the officer allows to be present.
The Court is prohibited from releasing certain personnel evidence to the defense, including information about misconduct that occurred over five years before the alleged misconduct in the current case, conclusions made by the officer or agency that investigated the misconduct and facts that are considered remote and would not have a benefit but would be overly prejudicial.
If the judge ultimately grants the defendant’s Pitchess motion, the Court may release complaints that are deemed relevant to the defense. The Court generally does not turn over the actual complaints, but will provide the defense with the name and contact information of the individual who initially filed the successful complaint against the officer. The defense would then be able to locate this witness and interview him or her or call him or her as a potential defense witness in the current case. If the original complainant is unavailable or has no memory of the initial complaint, the defendant can obtain the actual record of the complaint from the officer’s personnel file. When the defendant’s Pitchess motion is granted, the prosecution may be willing to dismiss or significantly reduce the charges in light of this evidence. In other cases, the prosecution will opt to go forward with charges.
If you have been charged with a criminal offense and believe that you were the victim of police misconduct, it is critical that you discuss your case with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney right away. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is highly skilled at litigating Pitchess motions on behalf of clients who were the victims of police misconduct.
For more information about Los Angeles Pitchess motions, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.