Restraining Order 110: Police Officers as Witnesses
The ProblemRestraining order hearings happen fast. If a hearing is requested to contest a restraining order, there's a statute that says the court shall hold that hearing within 21 days.
Unfortunately, this doesn't provide a lot of time to get together evidence and witnesses. Some of the most important witnesses are often the responding officers and the cops are usually going to require a subpoena to show up for trial. Another statute, ORCP 55(D), states that when you subpoena police officers, you need to provide them with at least 10 days advance notice.
If you don't already know the officer's name, you'll probably need to request the police report first and this takes additional time (sometimes up to a week). And there are rules against "hearsay" that make it very likely that you won't be able to just hand the report itself over to the judge, so you'll still need to subpoena the officer.
The SolutionAs soon as you either obtain a restraining order or challenge a restraining order that someone has obtained against you, make sure that one of your very first steps is to go down to the police station and fill out a request for all the police reports that are involved. The minute you get those reports, find out the officer's name(s) and send out subpoenas to those officers telling them the date, time, court address, judge, and courtroom number. Also, make sure that you include a check or money order for their witness fee (generally about $30) and mileage ($0.25 per mile from the police station to the courthouse). I suggest bringing these documents directly to the station and asking the officer at the front desk where subpoenas are accepted, but you should also call in advance because different stations have different procedures. Once you get the subpoena served, then you should call dispatch so that you can talk to the officer and find out what they will say before your hearing.
Why this is ImportantHearsay is defined as "a statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted." This means that if someone says or writes something outside of court, you usually can't testify about it at trial. For the most part, this includes written police reports (exceptions to the hearsay rule are beyond the scope of this guide and would be very difficult for an unrepresented party to argue). The answer is to bring the officer to court so that he or she can testify in person about what they saw, heard, or otherwise personally observed. This will make your case stronger and put faces and stories to your witnesses.