When pursuing a traffic violation defense the more evidence and documentation you have of the incident, the stronger your case will be. Unfortunately, securing such documentation can be time consuming and difficult. After all, the arresting officer thinks you deserve the charge, why would he help you prove otherwise?
Luckily, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was enacted for exactly these types of situations. According to the FOIA, you’re guaranteed the following rights:
- Right to request, inspect, and receive copies of any and all public records.
- Right to request that any charges pertaining to these records be clarified in advance. This allows you to know exactly what you are charged with and exactly what documentation you will need to request.
- Right to file a petition in district or circuit court if you feel your FOIA rights have been violated.
Therefore, although the arresting officer and the police may not be happy about it, by law they must provide you with the opportunity to get your hands on public records associated with the incident in which you’re being charged.
Acquiring Police Reports and Individual Traffic Violation Reports
The majority of criminal reports dealing with traffic violations are made public. This means that the entirety of the police report, as well as witness statements ascertained by the police, and police car video footage are all covered under the Freedom of Information Act. When building your defense you can use these reports to illustrate the scene and prove your claim and innocence. However, the request process can be a little intimidating.
Requesting FOIA Records
- Make your request. Unlike many government plans, the FOIA doesn’t require a written request for records. This means that you can request records by U.S. mail, fax, e-mail, in person, or over the phone. However, written requests are not only helpful in keeping your own paper trail, but can also speed things up on the other end as they have verifiable proof of the request. It also gives the department a clear statement of what records you are requesting, so that there are no misunderstandings.
- Send your FOIA requests and questions to:
Virginia State Police
Public Relations Office
P. O. Box 27472
Richmond, VA 23261-7472
- Provide identification. You must provide your name and legal address in your request.
- Specify the need for records. When making the request you need to be as specific as possible on what records, reports, and items you need. Otherwise, the department may be unable to locate them in a timely fashion.
- Stick to documents. Your request must ask for copiable records or documents. The FOIA gives you a right to inspect or copy public records. However, it does not allow you to request private information, opinion, or speculation about incidents or records.
- Cooperate with the department. If the department has questions about your request, try to be as understanding and cooperative as possible with the staff. Making a FOIA request should not turn into a fight, nor should it be combative. Although questions do periodically arise about requests, it does not mean that anyone is trying to deny you your rights. Try to stay calm, and if you seem to have persistent issues obtaining the requested records, contact an experienced lawyer to get the ball rolling.
You can also fill out our contact form, or call us directly at 703-865-6610 to get the help you need to secure evidence for your defense. Darwyn Easley will not only facilitate a quick and smooth transfer, but with his experience he can also make sure that all needed documents are ascertained and accounted for. Don’t waste time on unnecessary correspondence and potential miscommunication. Let Easley secure your documents, your defense, and your future. Call now!