Traffic Ticket Trial – Rosario Material & The Prosecution’s Witnesses

Our NY Speeding Ticket Lawyers at Palumbo & Associates, PC, have extensive trial practice experience representing defendants before courts of law in New York charged with traffic infractions. Many motorists believe that they cannot win a speeding ticket case because it just comes down to their word against that of the officer. Admittedly an officer’s word holds a quantum of significance. This is why severely limiting or precluding the officer’s testimony is such a powerful defense, and in this page we will discuss one of the ways we achieve that goal.

Rosario Material

The term “Rosario Material is derived from the 1961 NY Court of Appeals case of People v. Rosario, 9 NY2d 286. The defendant, Luis Rosario, was convicted of murder and robbery. There were several eye witnesses against Luis Rosario who testified at trial. They had all given written, i.e., “recorded” statements, to the police prior to trial. During the course of his direct examination the prosecutor used those written statements as the basis for a roadmap to direct questioning. When it was the defense lawyers turn to cross examine the witnesses the lawyer asked the judge to direct the prosecutor to give him the statements so that he may also utilize them for questioning. The judge denied the request.

Consequently, the issue on appeal was whether the prosecutor must turn over recorded statements of witnesses to the defendant for cross examination. The court in Rosario ruled that they must. “…[S]ince the State has no interest in interposing any obstacle to the disclosure of the facts and since the defense should be given the benefit of any information that can legitimately tend to overthrow the case made for the prosecution, or to show that it is unworthy of credence, the defendant is entitled to see and use the entire statement. Otherwise, there is always a danger that something will be withheld from defense counsel which may assist him in impeaching the prosecution's witness.” People v. Rosario, 9 NY2d 286 at 290 (1961).

In the years since the Rosario decision courts have articulated an expansion of “recorded” statements to mean any recorded statement, be it written or audio recorded. Nor are they limited to just standard police reports. For example, if an officer tows a vehicle and does a vehicle inventory of the contents, that inventory must be disclosed to the defense. If the officer is injured during your stop and makes a worker’s compensation claim those documents must be disclosed to the defense. Video with audio recordings which capture verbal statements made by the police must be disclosed by the defense. Field notes must be disclosed to the defense. Requests for lab analysis and evidence tags must be disclosed to the defense. Moreover, the statements do not have to be utilized by the prosecution, nor does the defense have to make a formal demand.

The skill in this area is knowing the myriad of forms, reports, and documents that police officers must complete concurrent with making an arrest. What happens in court is that the prosecution is going to turn over a file of documents and make a record that he turned over the “Rosario Material.” It is up to you skillfully question the officer into testifying about other recordings that he made which is not part of the disclosure. If the officer admits to extrinsic recorded statements, his testimony must be struck from the record. Inasmuch as a traffic ticket trial is usually predicated only on the testimony of 1 police officer, having his testimony struck from the record would result in the case being dismissed.


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