Question: When will I get to see the police report and other evidence in my Michigan OWI case?
Answer: This is what we in the business call discovery. Discovery is everything in regard to someone’s case. Whether that’s a police report, videos, any kind of testing logs or testing instruments to show that the equipment was or was not working, any 911 calls, or any subsidiary reports or witness statements are all part of what we term discovery. Generally in the state of Michigan, there is not a great right to discovery. Instead, most jurisdictions require us to use the Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, in order to obtain this discovery. When we use FOIA, there are certain time limits under the act in which the government must provide us the information requested. However, several jurisdictions will give us, through the prosecuting attorney’s office or even the police department, access to the information without having to use FOIA. Again, this is a very specific jurisdictional issue that you need to have an attorney that understands how best to approach this.
Further, when we talk about this evidence, it is very important to understand that this is why we want to obtain an attorney very quickly in any matter. Because every jurisdiction that exists has some kind of retention policy. And a retention policy is nothing more than fancy lawyer speak for, “When do we destroy everything?” Most people are concerned about the police destroying some of their records. In order to make sure that the police don’t appear to be individually targeting people, they have what they call a quote “a retention policy” unquote, and that just says that at some point, we destroy all evidence. Generally in most jurisdictions in the state of Michigan, after 30 days, any in-car videos or booking videos will be erased forever. If they are not requested prior to that date, they will not be available later. So it is something that is very important in these types of cases to get an attorney, get them quickly so that they can immediately get all of the evidence that’s out there because later it might not be available. It’s also important to note that in some jurisdictions, the timeline can be even shorter than 30 days.