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Indiana Supreme Court overturns precedent on prosecutors turning over police reports

The exterior of the Indiana Supreme Court chambers in the Indiana Statehouse. There is a sign outside the doorway that reads "Supreme Court 317" with the same message in Braille below it. Inside the open doorway, the justices' desks and chairs are visible, with a red curtain behind them. To the sides of those desks and chairs, on the rear wall, are photos of past justices.
FILE PHOTO: Peter Balonon-Rosen
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IPB News
The Indiana Supreme Court established a new precedent that says trial courts can decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether prosecutors must turn over full police reports to defendants.

The Indiana Supreme Court this week unanimously overturned a nearly 40-year-old precedent that affects how defendants in court can access police reports.

Prosecutors in Indiana couldn't be forced to turn over a full police report when a defendant’s attorney requests it. That dates back to a state Supreme Court decision from 1985.

The court acknowledged most local prosecutors do turn the police reports over when asked, or at least make them available to view. But some still don’t. And trial courts, bound by state Supreme Court precedent, couldn't require those reports to be shared.

Until now. Justice Steven David wrote that the 1985 ruling no longer applies. He cited improvements in technology as a reason to overturn the decision – for instance, redacting reports before sharing them can now be done with the click of a mouse, rather than manually going through each piece of paper with a marker.

David also wrote that sharing police reports is “largely unproblematic.”

The new ruling said trial courts can now decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether a full police report should be shared with the defendant.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.