In Camera Review of Police Personnel Records In California
In Warrick v. Superior Court (2005) 35 Cal.4th 1011, the California Supreme Court summarized the showing that must be made to justify an in camera review of police personnel records by the trial court.
The showing is necessary "to establish not only a logical link between the defense proposed and the pending charge, but also to articulate how the discovery being sought would support such a defense or how it would impeach the officer's version of events." (35 Cal.4th at p. 1021.)
In order to show the good cause required for the in camera review, "defense counsel's declaration in support of a Pitchess motion must propose a defense or defenses to the pending charges.
The declaration must articulate how the discovery sought may lead to relevant evidence or may itself be admissible direct or impeachment evidence . . . that would support those proposed defenses." (35 Cal.4th at p. 1024.)
It is not necessary that, to be plausible, the factual foundation be reasonably probable or apparently credible, because, in reviewing plausibility, the trial court does not decide whether the defendant's showing is persuasive. (35 Cal.4th at p. 1025.)
Instead, "a plausible scenario of officer misconduct is one that might or could have occurred. Such a scenario is plausible because it presents an assertion of specific police misconduct that is both internally consistent and supports the defense proposed to the charges. a defendant must also show how the information sought could lead to or be evidence potentially admissible at trial." (35 Cal.4th at p. 1026.)
Summarizing, the court held that the defendant in the case before it had "established good cause for Pitchess discovery, entitling him to the trial court's in-chambers review of the arresting officers' personnel records relating to making false arrests, planting evidence, fabricating police reports or probable cause, and committing perjury." (35 Cal.4th at p. 1027.)
In Warrick, the Supreme Court further held that the moving party must show a "plausible scenario of officer misconduct" and "how the information sought could lead to or be evidence potentially admissible" at trial. (Warrick v. Superior Court, supra, 35 Cal.4th at p. 1026)