Can Police Reports Be Used as Evidence in Trial?
When an alleged crime or vehicular accident is reported in the state of Arizona, law enforcement officers will arrive at the scene and may make a written report of the incident, known as a police report. Police reports are written in most criminal situations, especially if there was physical harm or death, including but not limited to:
These reports will include identifying information about the incident, such as names, dates, locations, times, witnesses, and scene conditions. Police officers will also provide their own written narrative of the incident beginning with the reason they were called, describing their arrival at scene and a summary of what happened while they were there, and concluding with their details of their departure from the scene. Additionally, the police report will include the officer’s opinion on details of the crime, such as their belief regarding why the incident occurred or who was at fault. They will also include the specific law that was broken or was being cited.
“A statement that the declarant does not make while testifying at the current trial or hearing and a party offers in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement.”
According to Arizona’s Rule 803 – Exception to the Rule Against Hearsay, public records are considered hearsay in criminal cases and matters observed by law-enforcement personnel.
Police reports can be considered hearsay because:
- They are often written by law-enforcement officials who did not witness the incident firsthand.
- They often include a narrative written by the law-enforcement officials despite not having seen the incident firsthand.
- They often include witness statements gathered after the fact.
- They may be written from memory, allowing for omission of facts or the presence of inaccuracies.
However, if a police report is written by a law-enforcement officer who did witness the incident firsthand, the officer may be called to trial to testify as a witness.
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