After Arrest: Documents Your Attorney Needs for Your Case

Some of these documents may be in your possession. Other records might be kept by the government but will be relevant to your case. After getting arrested, documents to defend your case will be critical to gather.

After an arrest, a criminal case will move to the State's attorney for review and prosecution. The police officers will cooperate with the prosecutor and help them prepare the case for a jury trial. During that time, the accused defendant will work with their criminal defense lawyer to evaluate the evidence and prepare a defense.

For almost any criminal case, your attorney will need the following documents during pretrial or as soon as possible:

The following documents may be relevant in some cases. Your attorney will let you know if you need the following:

  • DMV/motor vehicle records
  • Medical records
  • Mental health records
  • Paper trails/evidence
  • Information about witnesses in the case
  • Details about your alibi

Why Attorneys Require Documentation

In addition to all the information you can provide verbally, your attorney will be interested in seeing documents relating to your alleged crime. People's recollections of events are only sometimes accurate or trustworthy. Documents and exhibits can provide objective evidence.

If you hire an attorney right away, they may request these documents or discuss all of them with you. They will be looking for probable cause from the police, protection of your constitutional rights, and any mistakes from the criminal justice system.

If you receive a public defender and will not meet with them until weeks later or at your arraignment for the first court date, gathering some of these items yourself may help the person representing you. A thorough review of all the evidence can strengthen your attorney's cross-examination of the State's witnesses. It may also provide grounds for a dismissal or acquittal at trial.

Below are more details and explanations of the documents you should collect -- whether you are a first-time offender or have multiple criminal offenses on your record.

The Arrest Record

Documents are created during and after your arrest that record the details of what the police say happened.

One of these documents is a written report of your arrest. It may be separate from the public incident report. The police officer involved in the arrest fills this form out.

Your attorney will need a copy of that report to review:

  • The law enforcement agency that arrested you
  • Their reasoning (probably cause)
  • The date and time
  • The place of your arrest (this determines the jurisdiction of the case).
  • Information about the suspected crime.
  • What if any statement you made

The Police File

In every criminal case, the police create a "file" while investigating the crime. The "file" may not be in one place or in an actual file folder. It may involve documents and evidence retained in different places.

The police file will contain photographs, maps, notes from interviews, video footage from patrol cars or cameras, evidence logs, and other information uncovered in the investigation. The police file will be copied and turned over to the State's attorney for use in the prosecution. Public access may not be available for everything in the police file. State laws often exempt police investigatory records from public records requests.

On a lower-level misdemeanor crime, there may be little or no police file beyond the incident report and booking papers. If there is a report of investigation, the police department may not provide it to you upon your request. They may tell you this is something you get through the discovery process between the prosecutor and the defense attorney.

Your attorney is legally entitled to see a complete copy of the police file. This information helps them fully defend you.

In other words, your attorney needs any evidence the police have that might incriminate you or exonerate you.

Your Criminal Record

Your attorney will need to know the details of your criminal record. They will ask you questions and pull documents that list such information.

Your attorney will request a copy of your criminal record from the relevant jurisdictions.

Your criminal record will list the following:

  • Any crimes for which you have been arrested
  • Any arrest warrants
  • Whether you have served jail or prison time
  • Past amends like community service (in some cases)
  • Past probation or working with a probation officer

Your Motor Vehicle Records

Criminal charges that deal with a car or another motor vehicle, like a DUI/DWI, are handled differently at times. Your attorney may need to obtain a copy of your motor vehicle records from the government. You will also be facing administrative steps and penalties from your state's DMV, as well as the local courts.

One example is if the police are looking for a person fitting your description who drives a blue car. Since your car is green, your motor vehicle records may help prove that you are not the person sought by the police.

Your Medical Records

Your medical records may be relevant in some criminal cases. If you have a regular physician, you can reach out to their office to see what summary document they can provide to you. Once you talk with your attorney, you may get a better idea if a specific medical record would be helpful.

How might medical records help your attorney? For example, you suffer from long-term Covid 19 and have difficulty breathing. Your arrest record states that you ran from a police officer for several blocks before the arrest. Your medical records could show you are not able to run that far. Your attorney may want those records to be admitted into evidence to show discrepancies in the police version of events and your statement of what happened.

In addition, your attorney may also need any information on prescription drugs that you were taking at the time of the alleged crime. Sometimes during a traffic stop, law enforcement officers may conclude that you are under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. This would likely occur with a DUI offense. Letting your attorney or public defender review your prescription records can help them determine whether any of those drugs may have had an impact on your encounter with the police.

Your Mental Health Records

Any history of mental health treatment could be relevant to your case. Like other medical records, this information is private. You can reveal it to law enforcement if they suspect you engaged in criminal conduct.

Most crimes require intent. To combat the criminal case the police may build against you, your attorney may need a copy of those records. Your mental health may have an impact on the defense of your case.

For example, your mental state may enable you to plead insanity as a defense. Your attorney can use your mental health records as evidence of insanity if appropriate.

Paper Trails and Evidence

"Paper trails" are a broad category. It covers many types of documented evidence and can be physical documents or digital records.

Being accused of a "white-collar" crime, such as tax evasion, may involve a large paper trail. Records of your tax filings will be essential in determining whether you committed a crime. In contrast, proving you did not threaten someone via text message may simply require preserving your phone records and learning how to verify them with your provider.

Demonstrating you could not be where the alleged crime occurred may require documentation that you have or can locate quickly. Say you've been accused of committing a crime in Detroit, Michigan, on a specific date. However, you were on a business trip in San Francisco, California on that day.

A criminal defense lawyer will want to see any paper trail created on that trip, such as:

  • Airline tickets
  • Cell phone statements/bills
  • Hotel and restaurant receipts

These types of digital or paper receipts can help prove that you could not have committed the crime.

Information About Witnesses

It is important to determine if your case has any witnesses. Particularly anyone not contacted by the police during their investigation.

You should give your criminal defense attorney a list of names and addresses or describe who and where someone might have been a witness to the situation.

If you do not know the names of potential witnesses, at least provide your attorney with any information you know about them. Physical descriptions and locations at the time of the crime can be helpful.

You never know which witness may provide you with a solid defense.

Information About Your Alibi

An alibi is an explanation of your whereabouts at the time of the alleged crime that can be backed with evidence or witnesses.

Provide your attorney with the name and contact information of anyone who can confirm that alibi. You can also provide hotel receipts, GPS locations, or anything else that proves you were in a specific location at a specific time.

This may be crucial evidence in supporting or rejecting your defense.

Questions About Your Arrest? Talk to an Attorney

If you've been arrested, it's essential to make a phone call to a criminal defense lawyer for legal advice as early as possible.

Getting documents for your attorney will allow them to get a jump start on your case. It could lead to better results, such as granting a motion to suppress evidence or a fair plea bargain.

Contact a criminal defense attorney in your area today to learn how they can help with your case.

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