What Is a Pitchess Motion ?
A Pitchess motion is a statutory procedure permitting access to certain peace officer personnel records upon a showing of good cause. (Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531.)
See Evid. Code, 1043-1045; Pen. Code, 832.7, 832.8.
In City of Santa Cruz v. Municipal Court (1989) 49 Cal.3d 74, 81-83, the California Supreme Court described the statutory scheme as follows: "The Penal Code provisions define 'personnel records' (Pen. Code, 832.8) and provide that such records are 'confidential' and subject to discovery only pursuant to the procedures set forth in the Evidence Code. (Pen. Code, 832.7.)
Evidence Code sections 1043 and 1045 set out the procedures for discovery in detail. . . . Section 1043, subdivision (a) requires a written motion and notice to the governmental agency which has custody of the records sought, and subdivision (b) provides that such motion shall include, inter alia, '(2) A description of the type of records or information sought; and (3) Affidavits showing good cause for the discovery or disclosure sought, setting forth the materiality thereof to the subject matter involved in the pending litigation and stating upon reasonable belief that such governmental agency identified has such records or information from such records.'"
The Supreme Court went on to say:
"A finding of 'good cause' under Evidence Code section 1043, subdivision (b) is only the first hurdle in the discovery process. Once good cause for discovery has been established, Evidence Code section 1045 provides that the court shall then examine the information 'in chambers' in conformity with Evidence Code section 915 (i.e., out of the presence of all persons except the person authorized to claim the privilege and such other persons as he or she is willing to have present), and shall exclude from disclosure several enumerated categories of information, including: (1) complaints more than five years old, (2) the 'conclusions of any officer investigating a complaint . . ." and (3) facts which are 'so remote as to make disclosure of little or no practical benefit.' (Evid. Code, 1045, subd. (b).)" (City of Santa Cruz v. Municipal Court, supra, 49 Cal.3d 74, 83.)