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Michigan Criminal Law Blog

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Can Video Evidence Be Used Against Me in a Drunk Driving Case?

As more and more law enforcement agencies make an effort to video tape interaction within the community, the number of OWI arrests caught on videotape has increased. Bystanders are also recording police arrests, and in some cases, the person being stopped and questioned even uses a mobile phone to record the incident.

This is done to document wrongdoing or to prove there was no wrongdoing, depending on the situation. But what if the video recording made of your OWI arrest is being used against you?

It’s perfectly legal for police officers to use dashboard or body cameras to document their assessment of you when determining if you’re intoxicated during a traffic stop, and to then use that evidence against you.

These cameras capture information about your behavior and interaction with the officers in an objective manner which can be used to support the incident reports that are the norm after an arrest. The objective information on the videos can call into question the subjective reports of the officers.

Video Evidence of a Legal Stop

The material on the videos could include how you were operating your vehicle prior to the stop, the stop itself, the events that occur during a field sobriety test, the conversations you have with police, and your arrest. It’s easy to see how this evidence could be incriminating and used to support an OWI charge.

Video evidence can also help you avoid a conviction.

For instance, if a dash cam records you driving prior to a stop and there is no violation recorded, the officer has no “reasonable articulable suspicion” of a crime and therefore, no reason to stop you. Legally, a driver cannot be pulled over without probable cause of a crime. And while in the past officers could fabricate enough detail to indicate probable cause, the video recording shows the indisputable truth.

Video evidence can also be used to strengthen your case during the evaluation or field sobriety test. For instance, an officer might write in his or her report that your eyes were bloodshot or you smelled of alcohol or you performed poorly on your test, but if the video evidence shows you behaving normally and accomplishing the various tasks, the officer’s account could be called into question.

It’s even possible a recording could show a mistake made by the officer when administering the field sobriety test.

How to Use Dash or Body Cam Evidence

The bottom line when it comes to video evidence in an OWI arrest?

You need to make sure your attorney reviews the recording, whether it strengthens or weakens your case.

If you know there is or believe there might be a video recording you need to inform your attorney. He or she has the knowledge and experience to spot mistakes or inconsistencies and use them in your favor.

And if your arrest was valid and the officers didn’t make any mistakes – and the video evidence will be used against you – your attorney can prepare as strong a defense as possible in advance.

For more information or to discuss how video evidence of an OWI arrest can help or hinder your case, contact Andrew W. Kowalkowski, PLLC at 248.974.9594.

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