Latest News 2017 April How to Request Evidence & What to Ask For

How to Request Evidence & What to Ask For

In cases where you're facing thousands in fines or months of jail time, it matters that you know if there's a strong case against you—especially if formal charges haven't been issued against you. While an attorney can help you start building your case, there are steps you can take on your own behalf.

Below, we've put together a guide for how to request evidence from your local police station and a list of what you should ask for. Follow these steps, and you should end up with a fairly comprehensive amount of the evidence against you (or evidence that could be used in your favor).

Tip: Don't Ask for Evidence in Person—Write a Letter

It's likely that you'll never end up speaking directly to anyone in the records department. Asking the officer at the front desk for the evidence involved with your citation or arrest would be a bit like asking the front desk at an emergency room to treat your wound—it's not their job, and they wouldn't know how if you asked. Even if you invoke the Freedom of Information Act or what have you, it'll just waste your (and their) time.

If you've already tried asking for the footage involved with your arrest and they said no, don't worry—this will ensure that your request gets in the right hands: write a formal letter.

Your letter should include a copy of your citation or your case number (something to tie your request to the "enforcement contact" or incident). Make it clear that you are seeking "informal discovery" in connection with your citation/arrest. Informal discovery gives you the right to seek the evidence associated with your case prior to making a decision to go to court. In other words, you can weigh your options before committing to a trial.

Once your letter is written and your citation copy is attached to it, write this on the front of it: "ATTN: CUSTODIAN OF RECORDS." This makes sure it goes to the right department (and your letter doesn't end up in someone's inbox forever).

What You Need to Request in Your Letter

At minimum, you'll need the following pieces to have a thorough look at the evidence:

  • Copy of the officer's citation
  • The back side of the officer's citation
  • Copies of reports, notes, or other paperwork
  • Copy of calibration records for any speed measuring devices used in your case
  • Copy of relevant speed surveys
  • Copy of patrol vehicle recording (dash cam footage)
  • Copy of the officer's personal notes regarding your arrest/citation

Keep in mind that officers often write personal notes or things to remember regarding your case on the back of your citation—that's why asking for a copy of both sides is important.

By the way, if you're looking for evidence of whether you committed a moving violation, a dash cam doesn't activate until the emergency lights are on. That means your actual violation won't be on tape—however, your entire interaction with the arresting officer will have been recorded.

Something to Keep in Mind

It's important to realize that having evidence for or against you isn't what decides the case. What decides the case is the conclusion reached by the jury or the judge. While you'll be able to understand the basics of what you're looking at, all you're looking at is evidence. When a defense attorney looks at it, he or she sees a case. There's a major difference there.

In conclusion, request informal discovery. Find out what kind of evidence you're facing, and decide whether you want to fight the ticket or arrest in court. Just keep in mind one thing—a good defense attorney might be able to do more with the evidence than you think. They have the training and experience to see beyond the footage or notes and understand how to protect your freedom and your future. It's a priceless skill, and it might be the one you need most right now.