Another misconception by defendants which are trending more and more now due to being raised on social media is the relevance of “body worn camera” footage. I have been asked or told many times that since the police didn’t “record” anything, then the prosecution has no “proof”.
This is not true at all. Think about it. What did they do not even 10 years ago before body worn camera footage was the standard? They used officer’s statements and witness testimony.
There are two kinds of camera footage. There is MVARS and BWC. MVARS is a dash cam used by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the BWC is worn on the body of officers in most other departments or agencies. The officer still has control over when to record and if or if not to upload it to be used as evidence. The audio on the MVARS is often difficult to hear because the microphone is either located inside the vehicle away from the investigation or the officer’s portable microphone is not positioned properly. In my experience, most MVARS footage is of the initial stop and approach. The investigation such as Field Sobriety Tests are conducted to the side off camera where they are safer to perform. No remember just because they don’t see you on camera, doesn’t mean that are not recording your voice. If you are placed in the back of the car and you have “admitted defeat”, don’t start yapping away with the officer about your night. By talking to the officer you make various admissions and also a drunk in a sedan stinks of alcohol especially when talking which is an objective symptom of impairment. Another thing about MVARS is the audio does not kick in for 2 minutes into the recording that is released. BWC audio kicks in after 30 seconds. Since most DUIS that I deal with are done by the CHP most cases have the MVARS.
BWC is worn by the officers. Overall, they capture more. The audio and angle are much better. The officer’s just turn them on and leave them running when they make contact with a suspect. At end of shift the footage is uploaded and saved for later. Each agency has different policies on when to record.
I do have an opinion and experience when it comes to the use and BWC as evidence. Overall, it doesn’t paint you in a favorable light unless there is clear wrongdoing by the officer. As far as establishing your innocence it often backfires. One may think he or she is sober but with the narration by the officer conducting a field sobriety test as to how one performed along with the defendants speech and body languages it doesn’t help. Most officer’s don’t want to waste your nor their time with something that didn’t occur. A DUI investigation takes 3 to 5 hours of an officer’s time in investigation, report writing and transportation to jail when they would rather be on patrol.
So, just because the footage doesn’t exist does not mean what happened cannot be proven by old fashioned testimony.