Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ithaca Waterloo Elmira DWI lawyer: Are the Police REQUIRED to take notes during your DWI stop in New York?

Ithaca Police DWI notes form 2015, Photo Copyright Cyr 2015

Are the Ithaca Police (or local police) REQUIRED to take notes during a DWI traffic stop?

Short answer:  NO.  

There is no actual requirement that officers from Ithaca Police Department or any other local law enforcement take notes while they administer Field Sobriety Tests or any other notes during a DWI stop. 

However, the form you see in the photo above is available for all IPD officers to use during their encounters with people during DWI investigation stops.  It is double-sided and contains all the possible checklist of things that an officer is required to do during a DWI stop... if the officer DOESN'T fill out this form begs the question:  


Photo Copyright Cyr 2015.  IPD DWI form back side.

As you can see from all of the possible information on both sides of this form, it provides space for the officer to fill in his/her observations and provide ALL THE SPECIFICS OF FIELD SOBRIETY TEST administration. 

So, why don't we get this information in every DWI case?

I cannot answer that question.  Only the officers at IPD can. 

I have cross-examined police officers about their lack of notes during a DWI stop--and some of them have cited "Officer safety" as a reason for NOT taking detailed notes during a DWI investigation. 

I know most of the police officers in Ithaca and the surrounding area and I agree that their safety is important while they are doing their job.  I'm not disputing it.  

However, I think "officer safety" should only be used as an excuse as an EXCEPTION rather than the rule for not taking notes during a DWI arrest.  For most of my clients, the officer is never in any danger while they force my clients to perform Field Sobriety Tests on the side of the road in the middle of the night...  

These note forms SHOULD be used by police officers during their DWI investigation so that their results and what happened that evening are memorialized for trial or suppression hearing.  These forms should be used so that a defense attorney can cross-examine them.  That's the true test of if something was done right... appease the lawyers.

HOW FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS ARE ADMINISTERED is important to my client's case.  Not just the police officer's results.  

I need to know if the officer administered the test THE CORRECT WAY.  If they didn't, then the result is unreliable --and invalid.  

Also, police officers tend to neglect to put how or why my client FAILED the field sobriety tests...they just write in the report that they saw "CLUES" and failed my client.  Specifics are important when somebody's freedom is in jeopardy.

How can these notes help you?  (the DWI defendant)

If the officer actually takes notes of your DWI stop, then we have written proof of what happened that we can use to cross-examine the officer.  That is assuming there were mistakes or other positives that we can use to  your advantage in a DWI case.

If the officer DOES NOT take notes on this form....  that could also be helpful.  The very existence of this form can prove that the officer had an opportunity to do a very thorough investigation during a DWI stop...and chose not to.  

Once of the jobs of the police is to gather evidence.  I'm just hoping they do their job.  So that when I defend somebody charged with DWI, all the details of what happened that night are written down and memorialized so that I can cross-examine the officer.  

As they say, the devil is in the details. 

By Attorney Mike Cyr

P:  607-229-5184

E. or @ithacadwi

CYR & ASSOCIATES, Copyright 2015