Over the past decade, the nationwide push for law enforcement transparency has led police departments, including many in Texas, to adopt body camera technology to record the actions of officers in the field. Video evidence can be extremely valuable to defense counsel in analyzing the propriety of police conduct during investigations and arrests. This is especially so in DWI cases.
Texas law provides that anyone stopped or arrested on suspicion of DWI can obtain from the police department a copy of any video recorded by the officer who made the stop or arrest. This means that, prior to trial, defendants should receive access to video footage of:
- The traffic stop
- The arrest
- Any interactions between the driver and the officer, including field sobriety tests
- Any procedure used to take the driver’s blood or breath sample
Video footage is not limited to body cameras. People accused of DWI are also entitled to obtain a copy of police dashboard camera video.
However, your defense attorney must file a written request asking for access to the video, if one exists. In other words, don’t expect police departments to turn over video footage automatically.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is priceless. Depending on what the video shows, your lawyer could use it as part of your defense in different ways:
- Revealing inaccuracies in the police report — Video can highlight discrepancies between a police officer’s written report and what really happened during the traffic stop. For example, an officer might report that you were hardly able to stand and were slurring your speech, but the video may show you were standing or walking easily and speaking clearly.
- Preventing evidence from being used against you — The video might show that the officer failed to read you the Miranda warnings but asked you questions anyway. This would be a violation of your constitutional rights and your answers to the questions may not be used against you in court.
- Showing lack of probably cause for the traffic stop — The police report might say that you were veering over the center line, so the officer stopped you. But the video may show that your car only touched the line once or not at all, and that you were the only car on the road so there was no danger to others. Your lawyer could argue that the video proves the officer lacked probably cause to stop you.
Video evidence is powerful. Sometimes it is great for defendants, but other times it can help the prosecution. That’s why it is important for your lawyer to review the footage well before trial.
If you are accused of DWI in southern Texas, call The Law Offices of Kevin Collins right away. Our San Antonio DWI lawyer can assess the situation and defend your rights. Call 210-598-8629 or contact us online today.