Law enforcement agent’s arrest leads to removal of police reports from all court files

The Nevada County, California District Attorney has ordered the county to keep all police reports out of court case files available to the public. Police reports generally are found in criminal court case files although an agency is not required to release records it has that are generated by another government entity.

However, it appears that the Nevada County District Attorney was prompted to make this change, not by dedication to the law, but to protect one of their own.

The action comes after details of a drug arrest from a police report were published in The Union last week. Former Nevada County Animal Control Officer Arlene Winstead asked a narcotics officer to conceal evidence during her arrest, according to a sheriff’s incident report.

But police agencies often are not cooperative in releasing information that is covered by the Public Records Act. As the Californians Aware, Audit Report 2007: Public Access to Law Enforcement Information revealed, most police agencies don’t comply with public records law requests for information.

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3 thoughts on “Law enforcement agent’s arrest leads to removal of police reports from all court files

  1. Here in Vermont the typical criminal file at the court (it’s my business to review these files) typically include, along with the charging affidavit, the actual police report that the charging affidavit is based — a copy of a printout from the state police or local police.  This document shows all the data related to when the call was made to the police, who took the call, the list of witnesses or people of interest, and the text of the officer’s narrative detailing everything on how the received the report, their investigation, etc.  There will also be amendments to that narrative and narratives from any other officers involved with the incident.   These reports are almost always filed along with the affidavits and sit in the court file forever.   The difficulty in getting such reports comes when no charges have been filed and there is no court file.  The police generally — I have found — don’t give up these reports except when charges are filed as described above.

  2. In reply to police reports in court files. I have never heard of courts keeping actual police reports in the court files. The reports reports are available for prosecutors & defense attorneys. If the public wish a copy of a police they should follow the proper legal process (Freedom of Imformation Act). To allow a police report to remain in a court case files,open to public, could & should bring up legality questions and possible law suites that could be avoided by complying with the Freedom of Imformation Act.
    (at least in Michigan)

  3. FYI, here’s a link to the Vermont statute that addresses access to police reports:

    http://www.leg.state.vt.us/statutes/fullsection.cfm?Title=01&Chapter=005&Section=00317

    I recently asked a local police station if I could see their reports on an individual who is known around the town for calling the police and making accusations against her family and others — accusations that never come to anything. They would not share those reports with me. Your article on Nevada police reports prompted me to look up my state’s laws on the matter.

    I enjoy your website and email bulletins.

    Have a great day,
    Michael Taney

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