Ever hear the phrase “there are two sides to every story”? This old adage commonly appears in criminal cases. There is the officer’s version of events, and then there is the defendant’s version of events. My clients will often disagree with the things an officer writes in his or her report, or my clients will point out several details that the officer fails to mention. The lack of transparency can be frustrating for many people because judges and juries tend to believe the police officer’s version of events. How can we truly know what transpired during an officer’s investigation? My clients commonly ask me “Do police officers have video cameras?” This information can be helpful during an arraignment.
In many jurisdictions, police officers wear body cameras that capture video and audio. For example, in Washington, the Seattle Police and Spokane Police departments employ the use of body cameras for their officers. Unfortunately, this is not currently the case for law enforcement agencies in Clark County, including Vancouver Police, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, and Washington State Patrol. While there has been a recent push by Vancouver PD and CCSO to secure state and federal funding to equip their officers with body cameras, that has not yet been implemented.
Patrol Vehicle Dash Cameras
If you have been charged with a crime and you disagree with the officer’s version of events, what are you supposed to do? There may be other video options available. The Washington State Patrol equips its troopers’ vehicles with dash cams – cameras mounted to the top of their patrol vehicles. These cameras are forward-facing and capture what the officer sees. In addition to this video feature, State Patrol troopers have microphones attached to their bodies that record audio. I find this information useful to see if the investigating officer cut any corners in his investigation of the case.
The vehicle dash camera can give you a firsthand glimpse of the officer’s perspective. In the context of a DUI, Reckless Driving, Negligent Driving, or Driving While Suspended charge, the existence of a dashcam is useful information for a defense attorney because we can compare the audio and video to the officer’s official written report. I have often seen an officer write ABC in his report, however, the dashcam shows XYZ.
DUI’s in particular can be very technical. Officers are required to adhere to numerous protocols in properly investigating a DUI charge. They are requiring to administer field sobriety tests in a certain manner. They are required to administer a roadside breath test in a certain manner. If these protocols are not properly observed, a patrol vehicle dash cam can be of great assistance to a defense attorney in advocating for the client’s rights and defenses.
A dashcam may be able to display whether the officer properly read you your rights, impermissibly questioned you, administered Field Sobriety Tests correctly, or committed any other illegal activity in developing a case against you. My practice is to subpoena a copy of the dashcam in every case. I sit down with my clients and review this together.
To learn more about the video options available in your case, contact us today. (360) 726-3571.