Justices side against prosecutor in police report spat

The Porter County prosecutor's office must comply with a judge's request for police reports or risk being held in contempt of court, based on a decision by the Indiana Supreme Court.

In an order issued last week, the court ruled against a formal request by Porter County Prosecutor Brian Gensel and the Indiana attorney general's office.

They asked that Gensel and deputy prosecutors not have to provide copies of police reports in operating while intoxicated cases when Porter Superior Judge David Chidester requests them.

The court ruled 3-2 in favor with Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush and Justice Geoffrey G. Slaughter dissenting.

The matter began in May 19 and involved three cases where OWI defendants had allegedly refused to take Breathalyzer tests when stopped by police and had their licenses automatically suspended, Chidester's brief states.

Defendants usually ask for reinstatement of driving privileges.

Chidester requested the state provide him with police report copies, which the state does give to the defense, because both sides in evidentiary hearings "regularly misstate the facts in police reports or omit important facts," the brief states.

The reports would go into a sealed envelope in the case file that only court personnel can legally open.

The brief states that Chidester also set a hearing date for why the prosecutor and his deputies shouldn't be held in contempt of court for refusing that May order.

Gensel and the attorney general responded with the writ asking for a quick response on the legality of Chidester's order.

Chidester declined to speculate what could come next, but he suggested the ruling wasn't groundbreaking.

"I think this can be a learning experience for everyone," both prosecutors and defense lawyers, he said. "A court order is a court order, and unless it is an illegal court order, it must be obeyed."

Gensel issued an email statement Friday that states, "The Supreme Court ruled by a 3-2 vote that it would not prohibit the Court from ordering the State to provide police reports on specific OWI cases where there is a breath test refusal. There was no prior statutory or case law precedent on the issue. The State will comply with the order."

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