Cross Examination (Challenging an Officer’s Testimony in Court)

empty courtroom law scale

Going to court for any reason can be intimidating. Knowing that a police officer will also be present to testify against you can be even more nerve-wracking. The officer’s testimony is “evidence” in court. But like any other witness, your criminal defense attorney will cross-examine the officer and work to show that the testimony is inaccurate. 

These differences between testimony and already submitted evidence are vital in demonstrating your innocence. This is why you should not let any anxiety or fears about the outcome prevent you from mounting a proper defense, which includes questioning the officer.

The Police Report

Police officers write their reports to ensure that an arrest, charge or other action was done correctly, and to provide a prosecutor with a series of facts from the recorded incident. Reports are written based on what the officer saw, recorded or experienced at the time of the incident, and may not have a complete set of facts. (This is frequently seen in certain types of car accidents, where it “looks like” something happened a certain way.) A police officer’s testimony may be taken as a complete report, when, in fact, it may not be complete.

Once an officer is called to testify, your attorney will ask specific questions of the police officer, requesting details of the case, as well as pointing out any inconsistencies in testimony or the police report.

Testifying And Cross-Examination

Police officers are also trained in court testimony and may follow a particular “script” during your trial. A defense attorney skilled in cross-examination will ask the officer pointed questions. Section 90.608(2), Florida Statutes provides that a witness’ credibility can be challenged by demonstrating that the witness is, indeed, biased.

Frequently during these hearing, an officer may include an important fact that was not in the report. He may act like this omission isn’t really an omission, and try to characterize the report as being just a summary. An experienced defense attorney will confront this tactic head on by highlighting the neglectful duty of the officer for not creating the required comprehensive report. Your attorney will also have successfully stopped further insertions of additional undocumented facts from slipping into their testimony.

A prime example involves traffic ticket cases. The state calls on the on-duty police officer to demonstrate why he or she issued the ticket. After the officer’s testimony, your attorney has the opportunity to ask additional questions. Cross-examination allows the defense to raise relevant questions about the government’s case against you, and introduce doubt into the case.

Woman given ticket by a law officer

In a traffic case, your attorney may ask about where the officer was positioned when he or she observed you committing a traffic violation. If a radar device was used to determine your speed, asking about the device’s calibration or maintenance may help establish whether it was functioning properly. Was the officer paying attention to something else when you allegedly committed this offense, such as his radio or phone?

Preparing for Court

Understand that the government is required to prove that you committed the offense you have been charged with. Bringing in a police officer is one of the strongest defenses they have available. Asking the questions that discredit or otherwise invalidate the police officer’s testimony is part of your attorney’s job in adequately defending you. Cross-examination is a very complex part of the trial, and your attorney will be ready.  

A skilled defense attorney will work with you to establish the facts of the case, and prepare for your court date. Depending on the type of case, you can research laws in the county where your court date is to familiarize yourself with the upcoming case.

Headed To Trial? Call The Lawman

Representing yourself in court is never a good idea. You need someone on your side who will defend your rights and ensure you get a fair trial. Confronting an officer about their flawed testimony is also intimidating, but having an experienced criminal lawyer to help conduct the questioning takes away that fear.

The Orlando defense lawyers at The Umansky Law Firm have more than 100 years of combined criminal law experience to put to use for you. Our services received recognition as some of Florida Trend’s Legal Elite in 2018, which is a testament to our dedicated and compassionate approach to our practice. Contact us to discuss your case and find out how we can help. Call (407) 228-3838 and speak directly with one of our personal injury attorneys, or use our online contact form.