When police officers are convinced that they are right about an arrest decision, being able to prove the error of the officer’s arrest decision can be daunting. Officers are trained in how to write reports that will pass muster of a supervisory officer, and get approval from a ranking officer. Likewise, officers are trained on how to give courtroom testimony to support their written reports and investigations.
We hear of highly-publicized exonerations of innocent citizens through news reports from The Innocence Project or on TV documentaries, but these are almost always murder cases, which seem to mesmerize and captivate the viewing public. The place where the most wrongful arrests take place, by 100 fold, is in the field of impaired driving arrests. Many police departments have specialized “task forces” for interdiction of DUI-DWI drivers, and often these squads have quotas or “standards” that have to be met in order for the unit to not have to repay federal grant money for low-yield arrest results of the task force.
Even when an officer has made errors for an arrest decision or has jumped to a conclusion that is not clearly supported by the driving conduct, the physical “manifestation” evidence or possibly from witness statements, prosecutors are sometimes unwilling to sift through the questionable evidence to make an independent “call” about the sufficiency of the police officer’s DUI-DWI case. Far too often, the prosecutor takes the arresting officer’s report and summary of the evidence at face value, without digging deeper to see if the officer’s report is contradicted by other, more credible evidence available to the prosecutor. This deferral to the officer’s decision is especially prevalent in cases brought by officers assigned to a DUI task force.