Oregon Case Law Update: When is Police Officer Testimony Admissible?
From the desk of Josh Hayward: Under the Oregon Evidence Code (“OEC”), certain evidence is considered to be “scientific evidence” and requires that the offering party lay a proper foundation before the trial court will allow the evidence to be admitted. If a police officer responds to an accident call and arrives at the scene, will the officer be permitted to testify regarding the speed of the vehicles before impact and the vehicles’ movements following the impact? Read on to find out.
Claims Pointer: In this criminal case arising out of a car accident, the Oregon Court of Appeals held that a police officer’s testimony about the speed of a vehicle before the moment of impact and the movement of the vehicles following the impact was not “scientific evidence.” The court therefore held that the police officer could testify as an expert witness regarding the speed of the vehicle and movement of vehicles even though the police officer was not a certified accident reconstructionist. This case is a reminder that in some circumstances police officers are permitted to testify on important matters based on their training and observations at the accident scene.
State v. Rivera-Ortiz., 288 Or App 284 (2017)
Joel Rivera-Ortiz (“Defendant”) and R were involved in a motor vehicle accident. R was stopped at a stop sign and was ready to make a right-hand turn when she saw Defendant’s vehicle approaching from the left. R believed there was sufficient distance for her to make a turn. As she pulled out to make the turn, Defendant’s car hit the front of her car. The impact spun R’s car 270 degrees and her vehicle ended up 35 feet away from the point of impact. Defendant’s car rolled side-over-side and slid on its roof, coming to rest 388 feet from the point of impact. Sergeant Flem (“the police officer”), arrived at the accident scene. He observed a trail of scuff marks and took...