Video Evidence in a California DUI Case
A crucial weapon now in a lot of the DUI defenses that I do is video evidence because video evidence really tells a nice story about what happened. So, a lot of times what we’re trying to get is either the dashcam video from the police car.
What Type of Video DUI Evidence is Available?
A lot of the CHP cars are equipped with dashcam videos so you capture how the person was driving, whether they made any illegal turns. This gives you some ammo to try to attack the stop so they didn’t really stop them for any reason. So, video is one good play.
As far a trying to observe things after the pullover on the dashcam video, for some reason a lot of times the police will take the person to a location on the freeway or somewhere else on the street so the dashcam video is not picking up what’s going on, so it end up becoming worthless after the stop.
Not always, but a lot of times that I’ve obtained it in my client’s case trying to see what statement my client made, how they did on the field sobriety test — I can’t see anything on that dashcam video.
Another video that’s become available in DUI cases and all criminal cases is bodycam video. So, if you have some law enforcement officers that have been involved with arresting your client, taking their statement, doing the field sobriety tests.
Then all the observations related to the case, and talking to your client, sometimes getting that bodycam video can be very beneficial.
Especially if the police are saying that one thing happened and your client, when you talk to them, swears up and down that another thing happened. So, getting that bodycam video can be crucial in trying to defend the case.
Other times, citizens will take video of certain things, especially is your client has some issues with the police. If you could get your hands on that, that might be another way to basically attack the credibility of the police.
Also, how that they’re not really telling the whole truth about what’s going on, and just because they say a certain thing happened, doesn’t necessarily mean that it happened the way the police are claiming. So, video evidence is huge in DUI cases and a lot of criminal cases that I do.
DUI Video Evidence Is Not Always Helpful
Now, there’s a flip side to that. Sometimes the video evidence, whether it be from a car, from a citizen, from the police’s bodycam, can be very detrimental to a client.
I had a client once who was horribly drunk and talking crazy to the police and the police turned on their bodycam right at that point and that ended up being the worst evidence against the client.
It showed that they were drunk, belligerent and any jury was going to say there’s no way this guy should be out on the road. So, sometimes the police will use that video to their advantage as well to document how drunk you were, how you acted, how you were walking, how you were talking, whether or not you were staggering around, how you performed on the field sobriety tests.
So, video evidence can be used both ways — to help the defense and to hurt the defense. So, obviously before we go out and see video evidence in a DUI case, we’d better know exactly what we’re looking for and have a real strong certainty that once we get that video evidence, it’s going to help us and not hurt us.
In some cases, the evidence may show that the officer did not have sufficient reasonable or probable cause to pull over the defendant’s vehicle. Then, the defense files a motion to suppress under California Penal Code 1538.5.
Because usually once I get the video evidence, the prosecutors are going to get a copy of it too. They’re usually the ones that are getting it from the police, whether it be a bodycam or a dashcam, so of course they’re going to make themselves a copy.
They’re going to look at it to see whether or not they’ve got good evidence there to use against your client. So you don’t want to do something that ends up hurting your client. As a defense attorney, obviously you’re trying to help your client in their defense in a DUI case.
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