Traffic Court: Getting the Police Officer's Notes

To effectively fight a ticket, get the police officer's notes before you go to court.

By , Attorney · University of San Francisco School of Law

After issuing a speeding or other traffic ticket, police officers sometimes jot down notes about the details of the violation. An officer might make these notes on the back of the ticket or on a separate pad of paper. If the driver later contests the ticket by requesting a trial, the officer can use the notes to refresh his or her memory about what happened in preparation for testifying.

Generally, the driver has a right to obtain any notes made by the officer through a process called "discovery." Having these notes can be extremely helpful in fighting a ticket because it gives you advance notice of what the officer is likely to testify to.

Getting the Officer's Notes

Every jurisdiction has its own process for obtaining discovery. To find out what the process is in your area, you might want to contact the traffic court clerk and ask. But, generally, you can obtain the officer's notes (assuming they exist) by making a written request. The request should specify what you are requesting (so, include a request for the notes and any other evidence you seek) and be sent to the law enforcement agency that issued the ticket, the traffic court, and the prosecution (if your area has prosecutors in traffic court). You should make this request as far in advance of your trial date as possible.

What to Do With the Officer's Notes

If you receive a copy of the officer's notes, you'll want to study them carefully. It's possible that these notes may cause you to re-evaluate your defense strategy. You'll want to focus your testimony based on your defense and what the officer is likely to say at trial. And if an officer's testimony isn't consistent with the notes, you'll likely want to ask the officer about the discrepancies during cross-examination.

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