Technology has advanced in all aspects of life, including law enforcement. The simplest advance in law enforcement technology has been video taped evidence. This includes statements of the accused on videotape and arrests made on the street as seen by video equipped squad cars. More often than not, a DUI stop and arrest will be captured on a squad’s video camera. Usually, the camera captures audio as well. What the officer hears, the camera hears. What the officer sees, the camera sees.
Rarely, does the narrative of the police report match the actual event as witnessed through a camera lens and microphone. A police officer’s narrative police report is his/her version of the encounter and, of course, written from a subjective point of view. That’s human nature. We all see and report things from our own biased point of view. Police officers are not objective observers. They have a view of the arrest that is biased to substantiate his or her actions… making the arrest. The police report will be written to document the arrest from this biased perspective.
There is nothing subjective about well documented video taped evidence. It is the purest form of independent, unbiased or prejudiced evidence.
Slurred speech, swaying, poor balance… and so on goes the list. All boilerplate language in any police report of a DUI arrest. A standard question for cross-examination of a police officer is whether the speech described as slurred is the same speech heard on the audio portion of the tape. Almost always, the answer is yes. Almost always, the speech does not sound slurred or impaired.
The video also captures a persons balance, sobriety testing performance and behavior. A police officers description of these things will always favor guilt. A defendants testimony contradicting the officers testimony is rarely accepted favorably in absence of corroboration. A video tape can be that corroboration. Taped evidence of the event brings the trier of fact to the scene of the crime at the time of its occurrence. The judge or jury can decide for themselves whether the defendant is impaired. Frankly, it makes the officers testimony relatively meaningless. It makes the need to have the defendant testify non-existent.
Is it an advantage for the defense to have a tape of the “crime”? In my experience as a trial attorney with 28 years of courtroom experience, both as a prosecutor and defense attorney, the answer to that question is typically – YES!