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Name: California Highway Patrol v. Superior Court (Luna)
Case #: H020538
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 11/09/2000
Subsequent History: Petition for review den. 2/28/01

The trial court abused its discretion by granting a motion filed pursuant to Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531, concerning two arresting officers involved in the defendant’s drunk driving arrest. The documents discovered pertained to the investigation of one officer’s fraudulent time card issue and an investigation regarding a problem with a police report written by the other officer. The defendant had claimed that the officers used excessive force, and that the records in question had bearing on the officers’ credibility. The appellate court disagreed, finding that there was insufficient cause to believe that the allegation of excessive force was related to the officer misconduct alleged. The defendant did not make the requisite showing of good cause to discover the documents from the officers’ personnel files. Only documentation of past officer misconduct which is similar to the conduct alleged by the defendant is subject to discovery. The California Supreme Court decision in People v. Wheeler (1992) 4 Cal.4th 284, which held that nonfelony conduct involving moral turpitude would be admissible to impeach a criminal witness, did not address any issues relating to discovery of police officer records. The Legislature has provided protection to those records by way of a specific statute, and its intent was to protect police officers against such fishing expeditions.