Technology is beginning to play an important part in DUI investigations. Many law enforcement officers have dashcam videos in their patrol vehicles. The California Highway Patrol calls them "MVARS," short for Mobile Video Audio Recording System. The Los Angeles Police Department refers to them as "DICVS," or Digital In Car Video System. You often see dashcam video on television when there is an altercation between an officer and a driver. Dashcam footage can be important in DUI cases because it frequently captures several important things. First, it may show the driving that led the officer to initiate the traffic stop. Did the officer have a lawful reason to pull the driver over? Whether this footage is available will depend on when the camera was turned on. Sometimes the video is not turned on until the siren is activated, meaning the initial violation is not seen. However, the driving pattern that follows will be captured on camera. Is the driving erratic? Does the driver follow the police officer's instructions to pull over? Bad driving and failure to follow instructions can be considered signs of impairment. This footage is often critical in DUI cases.
Once the traffic stop has been made the officer will contact the driver at either the driver or passenger side window. If the officer detects the odor of alcohol or observes some other objective symptoms of intoxication, such as slurred speech or red watery eyes, he will ask the driver to exit the vehicle so he can conduct a DUI investigation. The dashcam video will show the driver exit the vehicle. This is important as it will capture the driver's physical movements. Is he or she walking with an unsteady gait or showing any other objective symptoms of intoxication? The officer will then administer the field sobriety tests (FST) to determine whether the driver is impaired. The FST's are frequently conducted on the sidewalk or another area that is not directly in front of the patrol car. Unless the officer turns the vehicle to face the location where the FST's are given then you will not see them on the dashcam video. However, many officers are wearing body cameras now. The body camera footage will capture the driver performing the FST's. The performance on the FST's is very important to a DUI case. Does the driver follow instructions and perform reasonably well? Or does the driver not follow instructions and/or have difficulty performing the tests? This evidence will be presented to a jury in a DUI trial and could significantly impact whether a person is found guilty or not guilty of DUI. If the driver performed well, this evidence can also be presented to the DUI prosecutors to help your DUI defense lawyer convince them to reduce or dismiss the charges.
For those officers not equipped with body cameras, many wear audio microphones. These can also be helpful in DUI investigations because you can hear the conversation between the officer and the driver. Is the driver's speech slurred? Does he sound coherent? The dashcam can also capture sound even if the officer and driver are not in front of the camera. For FST's that are not on camera you may still be able to hear the dialogue and, therefore, are able to listen to the driver's speech as well as the officer's instructions regarding how to perform the FST's. With video and audio technology becoming more prevalent, the times of DUI cases becoming the officer's word against the driver's word are becoming a thing of the past. CONTACT our office today if you have been arrested for DUI. Berglund Law Office, P.C. specializes in representing persons facing DUI charges.