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The Arresting Officer

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DWI lawyers also should be fully aware of who he is dealing with on the witness stand when he takes on a police officer: a professional witness. This is not a citizen who is shaken by his first appearance on the stand, but a person who has probably been there many times before. This is a witness who has lost his awe of the courtroom, who has sparred with skilled defense attorneys on many previous occasions, and who has learned to impress the jury with his calm and polite manners while taking every opportunity during cross-examination to ram the knife deeper into the defendant. He is, in short, usually a fairly skilled adversary who should be viewed as such, the days of the "dumb cop" are rapidly passing.

Perhaps above all, counsel should recognize that in confronting the police officer he is dealing with an individual, not a clone. Each officer is different; each has his own unique beliefs, attitudes, and prejudices; each varies in his degree of intelligence, honesty, and experience. In emphasizing the effect of these individual differences on an officer's conduct in the field, a relatively recent study conducted by the National Highway Safety Administration (U.S. Department of Transportation Report #H5-801-230) found, among other things, that:

The officer's age and experience play a role in his alcohol-related arrest decisions. Younger officers, and those with relatively few years of seniority, tend to have a more positive attitude toward alcohol-related enforcement and make more arrests on that charge than do their older officers. This result was found to hold true regardless of the type of department in which the officer serves or the specific type of duty to which he is assigned.

The officer's personal use of alcohol is inversely related to his level of alcohol-related enforcement. Patrolmen who drink make significantly fewer arrests than those who do not, and those who drink frequently make significantly fewer arrests than those who use alcohol only occasionally.