Thursday, March 27, 2014

What Authority Did Hamilton County Authorities Have to Redact Test Results from Irsay Arrest Report?

Yesterday, the Indianapolis Star published on-line an "exclusive" story about police reports the newspaper obtained that detailed the arrest of Indianapolis Colts' owner Jim Irsay.  First of all, I am  confused by how this could be an "exclusive" report.  These are public records.  Typically anyone can get any police report simply by going into the office that has the report and paying a modest fee for copying. I'm not sure how the Star could get an "exclusive" story based on public records that undoubtedly every media outlet in town has been asking for.

The Star story begins:
Indianapolis Colts Owner Jim Irsay
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay had trouble standing, his speech was slurred and he admitted taking several medications but refused to voluntarily submit to a blood test after he was stopped by a Carmel police officer on March 16.

Those and many other new details about Irsay's arrest are contained in police reports obtained Wednesday by The Indianapolis Star through a public records request.

Police also found $29,029 in cash -- most of it in a briefcase and laundry bag where police also found numerous bottles containing prescription drugs -- in the silver Toyota Highlander that the billionaire was driving.

Irsay agreed at the scene to take a portable breath test, though the result of that test was redacted in the records obtained by The Star. Irsay denied having consumed any alcohol, according to the arresting officer, who told a supervisor called to the scene that he "believed Irsay to be intoxicated on a substance other than alcohol."
Under what legal authority does the government agency, I am assuming here the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department or the Prosecutor's Office, have to redact that information on the results of a portable breath test in a police report?  The agency needs to identify what exception in the open records law was used to redact that information, yet, if they did, the Star doesn't mention it.   I have seen a lot of police reports in my time. Never have I seen the results of a portable breath test redacted in a police report. Now if the case went to trial and the report was for some reason admitted into evidence, perhaps for impeachment purposes that result would probably be redacted as that test is generally inadmissible.  But at this stage there is no reason to do this except to shield politically powerful Mr. Irsay from negative publicity.

Like attorney Gary Welsh of Advance Indiana, I have doubts about the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office which has history of failing to prosecute wealthy, politically-connected members of the community.


Nicolas Martin said...

I have no experience reading police reports. But the report, from the Carmel Police Department, says:

Offender Suspected of Using
Alcohol: No
Drugs: Yes

Why was he not suspected of using alcohol?

Since the Carmel Police Department issues copies of reports that are 1988 fax quality, it isn’t the easiest thing to read but it would appear that the redaction of the breath test is on page 19. The reporting officer writes, “I then offered Irsay a portable breath test on which he tested a [redacted.] On the same page: “Due to Irsay’s recent [redacted] I handcuffed him with his hands in front of him...” (Nice the way the officer “asked Irsay to stay with Officer Thomas.” Are the Carmel police always so polite?)

Irsay refused the blood draw so it performed pursuant to a warrant issued by Judge Hughes.”

Also on page 19 there are two apparent redactions about the nature of the pills found in Irsay’s vehicle.

On page 20 the report says: Mr. Irsay states that he had recently had a [redacted]...”" In the briefcase were [redacted] pill bottles...” “Inside the bags were [redacted] pill bottles with various color and kinds of pills..."

A second breath test was administered at the Hamilton County Jail with results also redacted. (page 23)

Under civil forfeiture will Irsay lose all his valued possessions, including his money, car, TV, phone, computer, and football team, consistent with the treatment of the Chinese women arrested for prostitution in Carmel last year?

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