A growing trend in law enforcement agencies nationwide is the mandatory use of police body cameras. These cameras are small video recorders worn on the chest of an officer called "body-worn cameras" (BWC). They are designed to record interactions between the public and the police. The police often rely on these videos to show an arrest was warranted or that they acted appropriately.
Like many major cities, Houston Police Department makes use of body cameras. While the city has an official body camera policy, it represents little more than a commitment to use them as frequently as possible. Because camera use is not mandatory, not every police stop or arrest will be on video.
Despite their intended purpose, body cameras can materialize as powerful evidence in a driving while intoxicated case – for the defense. Below, we discuss some of the ways body camera footage could help you beat a DWI charge in Harris County.
Highlight Discrepancies in the Police Report
Many judges and juries take the word of a police officer based solely on their profession. In cases where an officer's recollection of events differs from yours, it would not be uncommon for a jury to side with the officer's version. Body camera footage could prove that your story – not the official police report – is more accurate.
Discrepancies can be large or small. These discrepancies can show the officer was wrong about seeing an open container in the cup-holder or even something minor like whether or not you were wearing sunglasses. Any discrepancy between the report and the video can strengthen your case.
Assist in Cross-Examining an Officer
Cross-examination is your Houston DWI defense attorney's chance to ask questions of the officer that arrested you. This is a powerful tool at trial and can make or break a case. The use of bodycam video can be useful to ensure an officer is honest. When an officer makes a mistake or is less than truthful, your attorney can play the video and question him about what it shows. This can establish to the jury that at best the officer's memory is bad and at worse, they are being dishonest.
Ensure Your Rights are Protected
Typically, officers wearing a bodycam during a DWI arrest will keep the video rolling from before they make contact with you until after you have been taken to jail for processing. What occurs in between can be powerful evidence of your rights being violated.
If you are under arrest, the police must advise you of your Miranda rights before they ask you questions that are interrogative in nature. This means questions with the purpose of investigating your alleged criminal acts. If you have been arrested, questions regarding how much you've had to drink could qualify. If the video shows a Miranda violation, your attorney may be able to have that admission suppressed at trial.
While body camera video can go a long way towards protecting your rights in a DWI case, the reality is that only an attorney can truly make use of this evidence. A Board Certified expert in DWI defense can leverage the bodycam video in your case to ensure your rights were not violated by law enforcement and to uphold justice.