Investigation - The Animal Control File

Investigation—The Animal Control File

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The first thing on your list of things to do is to get the Animal Control File.  It can be as easy as a written request, or as hard as a public records request pursuant to F.S. § 119.  But in any case, you are not prepared to go to trial without it.  If they fail to give you the file, which has not happened to me yet, but may, I think you have grounds for a due process denial and either dismissal or a new trial.  How can you possibly cross examine anyone or know the basis of their case without it? How can you take statements of the witnesses and know whether they are being consistent without it?  How can you know if they followed the proper investigatory procedure outlined in the relevant ordinance of statute without it?  It is a key piece of evidence that you must have.

Regardless of how you do it, you must make a follow up request one week before trial, because new things may appear that are case breakers between the time you got your copy of the file, and the trial itself.  In Marion County, Florida, they do a case summary affidavit that they read to the fact finder, and they do it the day before trial. So you never get it, and apparently that's the way they want it.

I have taken to sending out a letter and email requesting any additions to the file from the original request about a week before the trial, and advising them if they intend to supplement or add anything further from the date of this second request to the date of trial, including the day before, I will object to it, since I have not had a chance to review it. In court, I think a judge would exclude it, but in an "informal" proceeding which is usually the first tier fact finder in dangerous dog cases, I doubt it would make any difference. You must object in any case if they supplement and do not provide you with it, for purposes of making a record for appeal.

 

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