Is a Video Recording Ever Beneficial to the Defense?

Here in Illinois, as of July 1st of 2014, all police departments are going to be required to have video in their police cars. Most departments already have video, but there are some holdout departments.

The reason I mention that video is because, depending upon what type of system the police department employs for video, we can often get an electronic key to open that software that holds that video, and when we run the video, we can see what systems in the vehicle are actually running.

For example, when the police officer is pursuing the client, we can actually see the speed of the cruiser on the video. It’s hidden from view, unless you get that key, so we always try to obtain the key, and we can see how fast the police officer is going.

We can see when the police officer activates his brakes because there’s an indication on the screen. We can see when the officer starts his emergency lighting, and we can see how far the police officer has traveled.

Video Can Often Help to Refute the Officer’s Claim of Reasonable Grounds for the Initial Police Stop

Those facts are fantastically helpful, because a client will come in oftentimes and say, “I wasn’t speeding but the police officer pulled me over.” That’s hard to dispute, unless you get to the key to the video.

In a number of cases, by unlocking that video, we were able to prove that the client was not speeding at the time of the stop. This proves that the police officer had fabricated that reason. It was what we refer to as a pre-textual stop, and we were able to quash and suppress the evidence and quash the arrest, because there were no reasonable grounds for the stop in the first place.

Be Sure to Share with Your Attorney the Details of Your Actions Prior to the Police Stop

It is important for the client to come and tell me what they know they were doing prior to the stop. In other instances, clients will tell me that they’ve got this new heads up display in their automobile, where the speed that they’re traveling is actually projected on the windshield, so they don’t have to take their eyes off the windshield to see how fast they’re going. That also has been a really helpful.

Does Your Vehicle Have an Odor of Burnt Marijuana?

Typically it’s some traffic violation, and the police officer stops them, and the police officer will say that he smelled or she smelled the odor of burnt cannabis. That’s a problem, too, because even if the driver did not smoke cannabis that day, if they normally smoke in their car, even if it’s parked in their driveway, that car may retain the order of that burnt cannabis.

The police officer can certainly say that when the driver put the window down, he smelled the burnt odor of cannabis, which would, again, would give him reasonable grounds to get you out of the car.

If it’s night, the officer will have a flashlight, and he illuminates the interior of your car. He does that for officer safety to make sure you don’t have a weapon. He may see a marijuana cigarette, the joint or a blunt right in the ashtray, or he sees the pipe right in the ashtray, or he sees a package of rolling papers right in the beverage holder. This is a common scenario for a drug-related DUI arrest.

Illinois’ Concealed Carry License Holders Records Are Computerized and Easily Accessed by Police

In Illinois, we recently had a concealed carry law passed, and the police officer will be able to run your license plate, which will come back linked to your driver’s license. In turn, this will come back linked to your concealed carry license, and so when he’s alerted to the fact that you have a concealed carry license, he’s going to be a little bit more careful when he approaches the vehicle.

Holders of the Concealed Carry License May Be Unintentionally Supplying Police with Reasonable Grounds

Any object that he cannot immediately identify, he’s going to say, “I thought it was a pistol. I thought it was a revolver. For officer safety, I wanted him to get out of the car.” Believe it or not, they can be dead wrong on that, and that will still be considered a good reason to stop you, get you out of the car, and so forth.

Police Reports versus Video Recording of a Police Stop

There are lots of reasons to get stopped. It’s extremely easy to get stopped, and it’s the rare situation that a judge will suppress evidence or quash that arrest. The video becomes helpful, especially in those speeding cases. Additionally, the video will be helpful because often the police reports, which we obtain, turn out to be a fantasy and what the video tells us is the reality.

In a typical traffic stop, the report will indicate, “I smelled something or saw something.” Typical the client will admit consumption of some form either that day or previously. Then they’re out of the car and their ship is already starting to go down.

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