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New Jersey Supreme Court Bans Police Officers from Destroying Crime Scene Notes

May 23, 2011 | Posted In Recent News - Administrative Law, Criminal Law

In an important decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court last week prohibited law enforcement officers from destroying the notes they take down at crime scenes, saying that New Jersey criminal defense attorneys should be able to review police notes.

Several other states impose a sanction on police officers who destroy their observations and other notes that are made at a crime scene.  However, New Jersey has lagged behind in this respect.  The New Jersey Supreme Court has now held that officers “may not destroy contemporaneous notes of interviews and observations at the scene of a crime after producing their final reports.”

According to the court, trial court judges will now be allowed to instruct jurors that they can consider a police officer's actions in destroying crime scene notes as a factor in deciding whether the officer's testimony is truthful.  The Supreme Court has given the New Jersey Attorney General's office a period of 30 days within which it has to inform prosecutors and local law enforcement officers about the new changes.

This is a good decision because it now provides New Jersey criminal defense attorneys access to the actual notes and observations that are made at a crime scene, which can help lawyers build a defense for clients.   The ruling was related to a case involving an appeal by a man convicted of sexually assaulting his cousin.

The New Jersey criminal defense lawyers at Helmer, Conley and Kasselman represent persons charged with DUI, murder, assault, sex crimes and other crimes across New Jersey.

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