Saturday, May 25, 2024

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Why Do Some Cops Always Report Identical Symptoms?

As any experienced DUI attorney knows, many police officers are considerably less than honest in their written DUI reports and in their testimony. One of the practices where this is most readily apparent is the tendency to “observe” exactly the same “symptoms” in every person the officer arrests for drunk driving.

With Officer Smith, for example, the suspect fumbles with his wallet when getting his driver’s license, leans against the car for support, and misses “Q” in the alphabet recitation — in every case. Officer Jones, on the other hand, seems to only encounter citizens who weave on the highway, admit to having four beers, and in the walk-and-turn test lose their balance on the third step. If a criminal defendant did this, we would call it “signature” evidence; when a DUI officer does it, we call it “coincidence”.

The phenomenon is so common that I described it in the original edition of my book, Drunk Driving Defense, published 33 years ago (now in its 7th edition). “To determine whether xeroxed symptoms exist”, I wrote, “counsel should include in his discovery motion a request for all reports made out by the officer in other DUI cases during a given period of time — for example, for 15 of the officer’s working days before and after the arrest”. (In later editions, I commented on the increasing use of computers by DUI officers to create reports — and on the tendency to “cut-and-paste” text from one report into another.)

These claims have, of course, been loudly and indignantly denied by prosecutors and law enforcement.

Well, imagine my surprise when I read a news article from the San Francisco Chronicle awhile back with the headlines “Suspicious Reports Ensnare Officers”. The sub-headlines further declared, “False, repetitive statements filed in dozens of cases”.  The reporter wrote:

Seven times in the past three years, veteran Pittsburg (California) police officer James Hartley reported remarkably similar behavior by drunk driving suspects as they tried to walk a straight line. Hartley wrote in his reports that each suspect “stumbled after the second step” but kept walking, then “flung” his arm or leg out for balance before turning around, staring at the officer and asking, “Now what?”.

It wasn’t a coincidence. Hartley and Officer Javier Slagado — a past “Officer of the Year” — admitted filing dozens of falsified reports.

While it’s not clear whether the two men discussed the practice, authorities said they used old arrest reports as templates — often with few changes — rather than writing reports from scratch on drug and alcohol cases. In some cases, prosecutors said, entire paragraphs appeared verbatim from one report to the next. Much of the redundant information involved field sobriety tests used to establish cause for an arrest and a blood or urine test….

So what does an officer get for filing false reports, felonious perjury, and sending dozens of possibly innocent citizens to jail? Six months of watching TV at home for each.

If you need to consult with a DUI defense attorney in Southern California, contact The Law Offices of Lawrence Taylor at 888-777-3449.  With offices in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and North San Diego counties, the firm has limited its practice to DUI defense exclusively since 1979 and is consistently top-rated in surveys of attorneys and consumers.

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Lawrence Taylor

Lawrence Taylor

Lawrence Taylor is one of the most respected DUI defense attorneys in the country. With over 43 years experience in DUI defense, he has lectured to attorneys at over 200 seminars in 41 states. An original founder and former Dean of the National College for DUI Defense, Mr. Taylor's book "Drunk Driving Defense" has been the best-selling textbook on the subject for 31 years and is now in its 7th edition. He is today one of only 5 DUI attorneys in California who is Board-certified as a DUI defense specialist. A former Marine and graduate of the University of California at Berkeley (1966) and the UCLA School of Law (1969), Lawrence Eric Taylor served as deputy public defender and deputy district attorney in Los Angeles before entering private practice. He was the trial judge's legal advisor in People vs Charles Manson, was Supreme Court counsel in the Onion Field murder case and was retained by the Attorney General of Montana as an independent Special Prosecutor to conduct a one-year grand jury probe of governmental corruption. Turning to teaching, Mr. Taylor served on the faculty of Gonzaga University School of Law, where he was voted Professor of the Year, was invited to be Visiting Professor at Pepperdine University Law School, and was finally appointed Fulbright Professor of Law at Osaka University in Japan. Mr. Taylor continues to limit the practice of his 5-attorney Southern California law firm to DUI defense exclusively. With offices in Long Beach, Irvine, Beverly Hills, Pasadena, Riverside and Carlsbad, Mr. Taylor and his firm of DUI defense attorneys may be reached through their website at or by telephone at (800) 777-3349.

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