Pitchess Motion: Meaning, When and How to Use

Pitchess Motion

A Pitchess motion involves getting Information on police officers’ records about inappropriate behavior—which can take many different forms. A fake police report could be one of them. In a criminal case, it might involve roughing up the defendant. That might be lying. An internal inquiry about their internal affairs division may be the cause. A Pitchess motion is a defense attorney’s strategy to discredit a crucial police officer who testifies against a client.

This motion aims to show the officer’s tendency to not tell the truth, potentially resulting in a not guilty verdict. This can be particularly important in motions, such as when the police illegally searched a client’s car and claimed they saw something in plain view. How can you demonstrate that they are lying? Unless there’s a video of the incident that poses a serious risk to you. We shall go over this subject in greater detail later in the article.

What Is Pitchess Motion?

Evidence Codes 1043 and also 1045 provide details on “Pitchess motions” in California. It’s a request for data from the personnel file of a police officer. You will require a court order in a criminal case involving Los Angeles to examine the police officer’s complaints.

When there is probable cause that the client was the victim of police wrongdoing, a motion for a discharge of misdemeanor is typically submitted as part of the pretrial procedure. Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531, a historic decision in California law where the California Supreme Court approved certain disclosures, is the source of the term “Pitchess Motion.”

Following the motion, a court hearing will be conducted to ascertain whether the police officer’s misbehavior has a solid factual foundation. The judge will examine the police officer’s personnel records when the court grants the motion. The judge selects the appropriate complaints to forward to the attorneys on the misbehavior claims if there are any in their personnel file.

Examining several accusations will lay the groundwork for a Pitchess motion, such as:

  • Concocting a plausible explanation,
  • Fabricated police reports,
  • Altering or stifling proof,
  • Unauthorized traffic stop
  • Overly strong force,
  • Profiling based on race,
  • Compelled admissions,
  • Insulting.

Let’s say you think any of the above-mentioned wrongdoings by the police officers who arrested you affected your criminal charges. If so, a Pitchess motion may offer proof of their previous occurrences of such kind of activity.

How Do I File a Motion for Pitchess?

An application for a Pitchess appears in the pretrial stage of criminal court procedures. The Pitchess motion appears in writing under California law. Evidence Code 1043 specifies what is to be inside the motion.

  • Criminal case, police officer, defendant, and organization in possession of the records;
  • The kind of records that are being searched after;
  • Affidavit demonstrating “good cause” to release the records, as well as
  • Evidence indicating the defendant disclosed the motion records to the agency in question.

An affidavit demonstrating “good cause” to reveal the police officer’s record is the most crucial component of a motion to dismiss. The testimony needs to provide a scenario based on facts that back up the claims of misconduct on the part of the police in your case and explain how and why such misbehavior matters. The government agency must receive it sixteen court days before the scheduled hearing.

When To Use This Motion, and Why?

In circumstances when a police officer’s actions are directly related to the subject at hand, it is important to recognize that the main goal of a Pitchess petition is to unearth material that may be used to cast doubt on or impeach the credibility of the officer.

This is usually because of their previous transgressions. A Pitchess motion can help acquire records that could support a defendant’s allegations, for example, if the defendant asserts that an officer manufactured evidence or used excessive force.

This motion offers a legal path to information that is usually regarded as confidential and privileged, which makes it especially important in the context of police misconduct records.

This contains information regarding the disciplinary actions, misconduct complaints, and other pertinent behavioral patterns that the officer has had in the past. Such details may be very important in formulating the defense plan and may affect how the case turns out.


What is a California Pitchess motion?

In short, a Pitchess motion is a pretrial procedure wherein a defendant, believing that a law enforcement officer has acted unlawfully, requests to review the officer’s personnel file for proof of misconduct.

In LA, what is a motion?

A Motion: What Is It? The way you address the judge regarding an issue in your case is through a motion. A motion might be made, for instance, to petition the court to require the payment of a judgment in installments or to ask the court to set aside or vacate a default judgment.

What is a California strike motion?

A motion to strike is a legal request for the court to strike certain portions of the other party’s pleadings. This can include information from a complaint, response, or other legal documents that are superfluous, repetitive, or legally deficient.


Law enforcement can exercise a privilege over confidential information under California Evidence Code 1040(b), which can be obtained through a Pitchess motion. The appellate court may review the admissibility of the motion and determine if an abuse of discretion occurred. If the previous court denied the motion without conducting an in-camera review, the court may remand the case and require an in-camera hearing. Reversals of denials only occur if the court conducts an in-camera hearing.

In DUI cases, where the defendant feels the officer acted improperly throughout the investigation, they may file a dismissal request. This frequently happens when there has been excessive police aggression of any kind. The Pitchess motion procedure, which was previously discussed, will be utilized by a defense lawyer to gather details regarding the officer’s prior wrongdoing and propensity for mistreating suspects. Pitches information can also be used to demonstrate an officer’s history of prejudice or a pattern of fabricating evidence. It’s crucial to let your criminal defense lawyer know if you think any of these circumstances apply to your case so they can assess if filing a pleading of insanity will strengthen your defense.

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