Pitchess Motions (Identifying Patterns of Police Misconduct)
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A California “Pitchess motion”—described in Evidence Code 1043 and 1045 EC— is a request for information contained in a law enforcement officer's personnel file.1
California criminal defense lawyers typically file a Pitchess motion as part of the pretrial process when they believe that their client has been the victim of some form of police misconduct.
Types of law enforcement officer misconduct that could support a Pitchess motion include:
- Use of excessive force,2
- Racial profiling ,
- Coercing confessions,3 and/or
- Dishonesty in police reports.4
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Pitchess motion procedures and standards
The first step in the Pitchess motion process is for your attorney to file a written motion with the court handling your case. S/he must also provide written notice of the motion to the governmental agency that maintains the personnel records you are seeking.6
- A description of the type of records or information you are seeking, and
- Documents showing “good cause” for the records to be released to you.7
How a Pitchess motion can help your criminal case
Depending on what the officer personnel records reveal, a successful Pitchess motion could persuade the prosecution to reduce—or even dismiss—one or more of your charges.
And even when the prosecutor doesn't choose to do so, the information could help you pursue
- a Penal Code 995 PC motion to set aside the information,9 or
- a Penal Code 1538.5 PC motion to suppress evidence.10
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