Legal Updates

Challenging Police Officers in Court

Police officers testify in court frequently as part of their job duties.  They can be savvy and adept at circumventing difficult questions.  Still, it is critical that your lawyer effectively interrogates the State’s witnesses. Some helpful strategies when questioning a police officer may include:

  • Asking about the officer’s experience, particularly if the officer lacks familiarity with the type of offense, such as in a DUI or sex offense case;
  • Using police reports to impeach the witness with respect to his or her memory;
  • Asking about the procedures that should be followed in similar cases and whether these procedures were followed in that particular case;
  • Asking specifically about that particular officer’s actions; officers commonly testify based on what other officers may have done or seen;
  • Asking about the officer’s ability to observe, because although the court may allow testimony about what other officers did as part of the “course of investigation,” the officer should not testify to what he did or did not observe;
  • Questioning any lapse in the methodical handling of the evidence, including the failure to present the chain of custody for the physical evidence or failure to proper follow procedures for storing evidence;
  • Questioning any deceptive techniques used, such as masking identity, lying to the defendant, conducting electronic surveillance of areas, or using confidential informants;
  • Questioning any force used to stop, arrest, or question the child, particularly when excessive force may have been used;
  • Questioning the witness about police directives and the procedures used in the investigation.

The successful cross examination of police officers is critical to effective representation of the accused.  Contact my office at (267) 535-9776 to speak with an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer about the right way to deal with a hostile witness.