Police dashcams are tiny eyes on almost all law enforcement encounters, and they may be key to winning your criminal case.
In the past, police misconduct might go unreported because there was no evidence -- like the classic "your taillight is busted" scenario. Now officers who act illegally are being caught by their own dashcams, and defendants are using them to dismiss cases.
How can a dashcam video affect your defense? Here are three ways they can potentially be used in litigation:
1. To Prove No Law Was Broken.
Especially in DUI cases, it is important for the prosecution to prove that a suspect's car was pulled over on reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. If the officer states that a defendant was pulled over on suspicion of breaking a traffic law (e.g., changing lanes without signaling), then a dashcam video should confirm that.
However, if the dashcam video shows that a defendant made no traffic violations before police pulled him or her over, any charges may be dismissed. If a traffic stop was performed illegally, any evidence which was obtained after the stop can be excluded from trial.
If the evidence which would be excluded is the primary evidence in the case, a defense attorney can move for dismissal.
2. To Illustrate Police Misconduct.
Dashcams can be useful to clear a defendant of wrongdoing and also to prove that the cops did do something wrong. In a New Jersey case, Marcus Jeter, 30, was cleared of resisting arrest and assault charges after a dashcam video revealed that two police officers were the actual aggressors, ABC's "Good Morning America" reports.
Not only can dashcam evidence of police brutality and excessive force be key to getting your own criminal charges dismissed, it can be the smoking gun in a police brutality lawsuit.
3. To Highlight Problems With Your Case.
Obtaining a dashcam video may also help your criminal defense attorney to better understand the flaws in your defense. If the dashcam video shows you drunk and belligerent, your attorney may attempt to file a motion to exclude that evidence.
Failing that, you and your attorney can strategize about how the prosecution will use the dashcam footage -- possibly painting you in a poor light -- and can plan accordingly.
For better or for worse, dashcam footage is compelling evidence and may make all the difference in your case.