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Police Body Cameras in a DUI Case
One of the latest trends in law enforcement technology is the use of body cameras. This change has arisen in part due to recent events involving allegations of police misconduct. While these cameras can prove useful in certain situations and give defense attorneys more evidence to use in building a case surrounding the DUI stop specifically, it is important to remember that they are not the be-all and end-all of drunk driving defense.Dash Cams
For years, many police agencies have employed dashboard cameras to capture roadside traffic stops. These forward-facing cameras are typically located on the rearview mirror of the patrol vehicle. Different police departments regulate their camera and have policies that result in the patrol vehicle video camera running continuously, or only after the officer activates their overhead lights. This difference can sometimes result in much of the driving that lead to the traffic stop not being captured on the video recording.
With a patrol vehicle video camara, the police officer must always be mindful to place the driver within the viewing of the camera. In some instances, this is not possible or not done, and the field sobriety tests will therefore not be captured.
Also, with a dash cam, the officer will have a control to operate the microphone on their uniform. This means there can be a perfectly good video without any audio. In other instances, the officer will turn off the audio when speaking with other officers or witnesses. This spoliation of evidence can be raised with the trial judge as part of an effort to attack the prosecutor's case.
Finally, because these cameras only provide one viewing angle, and if the officer or the suspect (or both) steps out of the view of the camera, the footage may be unusable.Body Cams
With body cameras the video camera is attached to the officer's uniform, so the camera angle is "up close and personal." From this close up perspective, we get to see a different things, such as the administration of the horizonal gaze nystagmus, and can sometimes get a much closer look at the driver as the officer approaches the vehicle. However, these cameras still do not allow us to see everything that the officer sees; rather, we can only view what is within the range of the camera at the specific angle that the officer's body is oriented.Every Case is Unique
Video evidence can often make or break a defense to a drunk driving case. Sometimes the video will depict and individual who looks more intoxicated than might be suggested from the officer's narrative report alone. The opposite can also be true. The video recording might depict someone who looks sober even when the police report is written to exaggerate all of the evidence and make the driver sound more drunk than they really are.
Though several police agencies across Michigan are now employing body cameras, there are other agencies that have not yet invested in dashboard cameras. There is no mandate on law enforcement agencies to implement these technologies, and some are more reluctant than others to use cameras of any type.
If you have been arrested for drunk driving, it is important to consult with an attorney who can review all the available evidence in your case and prepare a defense that is suitable to your specific situation.