The definition of “stuporous” and other dumb police-isms.

by Jamison Koehler on September 12, 2019
D.C. criminal defense attorney

Sometimes police officers try to do too much.  They should respond to calls, interview witnesses, make arrests, write up their reports, etc.   But they should leave the lawyering to the prosecutors.  They should stay in their lane.  

I had a wonderful time cross-examining a police officer who used the term “excited utterance” in a police report.  

Somewhere the officer had heard this term, probably while he was testifying in court, and learned that it might be important:  It might be the difference between a statement being admitted and a statement being excluded as hearsay.  So, already thinking ahead to the day he would appear before a judge, he used the phrase.  He wrote something along the lines of: “And then, in an excited utterance, W1 said that S1 hit V1.”   

Imagine my delight upon seeing this in the report. 

First, you lock the officer into the statement. You take your time.  Then you have some fun.  “Excited utterance.”  What does this even mean?  When is the last time you used it in a normal conversation?  You understand that the phrase has legal implications? And that is why you used the term?  Because you wanted to make sure that the statement was admissible in court?  

And so on, until you wear out the judge’s patience. 

Never mind that the same statement could also have come in on other grounds – statement of prior identification, for example. 

I also used to have some fun in Philadelphia with the definition of “stuporous.”  Because who really knows what this even means?  In a state of stupor?

But, along with “red or glassy eyes” and “slurred speech,” the DUI form there had this word listed as an option, and the officers could never resist checking it. 

Stuporous.  When is the last time you used that word in a conversation?  Oh yeah?  Then define it for me.  

The officer would always get this look on his/her face when challenged like this.  The look can only be described as, well, stuporous.  

I am still waiting for the response.

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