Ask any lawyer about almost any topic, and, at some point, they'll answer, “Well, it depends.” If you hear that (and you will), it's not that they are trying to evade your question or don't know the answer. When a lawyer says, “It depends,” that means there's no bright-line, yes-or-no answer. Instead, the outcome depends on the facts, and it also depends on your goal. That's exactly where we are in answering your question, “Can a cell phone video of your DUI arrest be useful in my criminal defense?” The answer is absolutely a very firm “It depends.”
It Depends on the Facts
Whether cell phone video will be beneficial to your case will depend on the facts.
For example, at this point, California Highway Patrol vehicles are usually equipped with Mobile Video/Audio Recording Systems (MVARS), a camera-and-microphone system fixed onto the patrol car's dashboard. The MVARS (also known as a “dashcam”) will have footage of you driving before being pulled over. And it's possible that the arrest was recorded by both the MVARS and the arresting officer's body camera.
If the cell phone video shows you are in control of your faculties, then it is a powerful tool in your defense. If, however, it shows you had trouble completing the sobriety test, had difficulty speaking or understanding the officer's instructions, and so forth, then it can hurt your case. Since the judge (or jury) will see what the police saw, it could support a prosecutor's claim that the police were reasonable in saying you were too impaired to drive.
Of course, if the police committed any wrongdoing (such as unnecessary restraint) during the arrest, the cell phone video could be helpful to prove that too.
It Depends on the Goal
There are other reasons to consider the cell phone video—depending on your goal.
You may be defending your case on the grounds that the police did not have probable cause to pull you over in the first place. If so, MVARS footage of your driving well—doing nothing to arouse the police's suspicion—could be crucial to winning your case. Introducing cell phone video that indicates you were impaired during the stop and arrest would negate that defense.
If your goal is to raise questions about the credibility of the arresting officer, then the cell phone video can help you identify discrepancies between the police officer's testimony, the report, and the MVARS recording.
So again, “it depends;” in some cases, the cell phone video can hurt your defense: You could lose some legal arguments you might otherwise have.
Another way of saying, “It depends,” may be to say, “It's a double-edged sword.” Once again, that's a good way of describing using cell phone video in a DUI case: There are reasons why it can both help or hurt your defense. That's why it's so important to have an experienced attorney at your side—someone who understands the pros and cons, not just of videos, but all of the elements that come into play in a DUI.
If you've been arrested for a DUI, call AMIN LAW, P.C. at 415-851-4300 or contact us online for a free consultation.