In recent years, there has been a growing trend among law enforcement to use pre-written arrest reports in drunk driving cases. In other words, they are writing out a batch of phony reports — including "observed" driving symptoms, slurred speech, failed field sobriety tests, admissions of drinking — and then just filling in the names, dates, etc., when they actually make an arrest.
Saves a lot of time.
In this computer age, however, this practice is commonly abbreviated even further by using computer templates: word processing forms which have all of the "facts" already entered, with blanks to fill in for name, date, etc. And this has been going on for some time now, as the following news story from a few years ago shows:
DUI Suspects May Go Free Due To Questionable Arrest Reports
Orlando, FL. November 16 — 9 Investigates has uncovered dozens of DUI suspects that may go free because sheriff’s deputies appear to be using pre-written arrest reports. There are some experts who believe this may even amount to perjury.
When a deputy makes a DUI bust, the officer writes an arrest report. It’s the official record of what the deputy says happened. But Eyewitness News has uncovered dozens of Orange County DUI arrest reports that apparently have come from pre-written templates. One report, for instance, says the suspect "stumbled slightly when walking and swayed moderately … with a three inch to five inch orbital rotation/sway." At least ten reports, written by the same deputy over a six-month period, use the exact same phrase. Even reports written by other deputies contain that exact phrase.
In many reports, the deputy noticed the "strong odor of an alcoholic beverage within my interior cab." That exact phrase appears in report after report. And it’s there whether the suspect’s blood alcohol content was anywhere from .03 to .16. 9 Investigates found 11 other reports, written by a different deputy, that use those exact words, again, no matter how much the suspect had to drink.
"It just doesn’t smell right," said DUI defense attorney Stu Hyman. "It’s a sad state of affairs when somebody hasn’t even committed the offense yet, but the report has already been written." 9 Investigates found one deputy whose suspects always do an "orbital rotation" and always "counter-clockwise." Five deputies always leave their suspects in the car for exactly five minutes before smelling alcohol. In one case, a suspect was described as "he/she."
It all leads Hyman to believe the reports were pre-written. "Why is it that everyone is swaying three to five inches? Why isn’t it two to eight? Why not one to seven inches?" questioned Hyman….
9 Investigates found court testimony where a deputy indicated the sheriff’s office has computer DUI templates. The deputy testified, "I’ve been told people use them. I just choose not to."
None of this comes as any surprise to experienced DUI attorneys, who are used to seeing what I have called in my book and lectures "xeroxed symptoms". This has been going on for a long time. Years ago, I used to get a court order for copies of an arresting officer’s DUI reports for the previous 30 days; the symptoms often proved remarkably similar. When the reports became an embarrassment, the Orange County (California) D.A.’s office finally appealed and stopped the judges from issuing the orders — but never prosecuted a single officer for perjury or filing a false report.