Pitchess Law and Legal Definition

Pitchess is a term used in criminal law to refer to a motion by a defendant for access to information in the personnel file of an arresting police officer. The name is derived from a 1974 California Supreme Court case, Pitchess v. Superior Court (1974) 11 Cal.3d 531. The Pitchess process is now codified in California Evidence Code sections 1043-47. The information sought must be relevant to the defendant's defense, and a provision is included for a hearing to weight the need for access to the personnel file against the officer's right to privacy. The personnel file is interpreted to include records of internal affairs investigations, citizen complaints, records in the Human Resources department, and records containing psychological or other medical information concerning the arresting officer.