Police Body Cameras Cut Both Ways

By Bo Kalabus
www.rosenthalwadas.com;
b.kalabus@rosenthalwadas.com
24-hour Jail Release: 214-402-4364

More and more Collin and Dallas County police agencies are using body cameras these days. Being filmed during a police investigation is not an entirely new concept, as police in-car dash video recorders have been around for quite some time now. However, the police body camera can show much greater detail during a police encounter, which can be both helpful and harmful to defense of a criminal case.

In defending a criminal case, I find for the most part having events videotaped is very helpful. The video recording is the best objective evidence of an event and I would rather have a dash camera or body camera video in a case I’m working on than not. Take a DWI for example, an officer may put in his report that he just witnessed the worst driving ever and that’s why he stopped the vehicle.   But when we review the patrol car video the driving doesn’t look near as bad as the officer described. In fact, the driver may not have violated any traffic law and the officer may not have had an objective reason for pulling the driver over. This type of video evidence will keep the officer from exaggerating his testimony at trial. However, the dash camera can have limitations. Often the footage is grainy and the audio can be muffled.

Police body cameras take the recording to the next level in detail. Take the same DWI example, when the officer goes to the window of the car that body camera will be focused right on the driver’s face. If the driver is impaired due to alcohol and exhibiting slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or is slow to respond to questions this will be very apparent on the recording. That type of scenario may not play to well for the client. However, if the driver is not obviously impaired and officer exaggerates these details in his police report the video recording will be our best evidence in defense of the case.

The body cameras are also recording all audio. As a result, I can hear the conversations between the police officers when they huddle up to discuss the status of an investigation and the radio calls. Back on the DWI example, if a back up officer arrives and is being briefed by the arresting officer there is no limit to what information I can find out about how they think the investigation is going. This is a great tool in identifying any bias the police officer may have or whether they think the evidence they have is strong or not. Sometimes the officers forget they are being recorded and you would be surprised as to what you hear.

The body cameras are also very helpful in identifying the exact timeline of events and the behavior of both the arrested person and police officer—especially if there is a dispute on any of these issues.

Overall, body cameras are going to be here to stay. My experience with them so far has been very positive in defense of my clients.  If you are charged with a crime, you should contact a competent Collin County Criminal Lawyer to represent you and examine all the possible defenses you could have with your case.

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