By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Texas law makes it tougher than you might think to see your own police report. Believe it or not it could be the middle of trial before you’re allowed to see it!
But don’t worry, in Texas state courts it rarely, if ever, happens that way regardless if it’s DWI, theft, assault, drugs or whatever.
The Michael Morton Discovery Act passed taking effect for cases filed after January 1, 2014 require the prosecutors to give your lawyer a police report upon request, though, there are limitations on to whom your lawyer can disclose the report. You can read more about those changes here.
Two quick points — lawyers look at police reports the same way doctors look at x-rays. We key in on things you may not notice because they’ll have legal significance. If you don’t already have a lawyer — consider one. Second, this discussion isn’t for traffic tickets and municipal fines in Texas though some of the same rules may apply.
Police departments don’t have to give you the report in a criminal case unlike a civil car accident. Texas Government Code 522.108 is an exception to the Texas Public Information Act for law enforcement in criminal matters.
Many prosecuting agencies like Dallas and Ft. Worth and Collin County currently have “open file” policies meaning the defense attorney has access to the entire file.
And you do have rights in all this. The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 39.14 provides that if you show “good cause” to the Court, the Court can order the prosecution to produce a whole laundry list of items from their file prior to trial. The prosecutor has legal and ethical duties to produce favorable evidence to you. Brady is generally any evidence which is exculpatory (proves innocence) or which is favorable to the defendant — though the issue is complex.
Again, without legal training and experience as a legal practitioner — getting your hands on a police report can be useless. If the case is serious enough for you to want a police report, it’s probably serious enough for you to get a lawyer!
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article should be considered legal advice. For legal advice you should consult an attorney.