Is It the Goal of Police Officers to Make Arrests?
Interviewer: Do you find that police are often in error deliberately? Or is there so much going on that even they have a hard time executing everything perfectly?
Jerald Novak: I think you first have to examine the role of the police. The role of police is to arrest people. That’s really their goal. I don’t say that they get in their police vehicle with malice and they are setting out to arrest people wrongfully. What I’m saying is they set out in their vehicle with the goal of “my job is to arrest people.” When they see the slightest violation in their mind they assume it’s a valid violation and that it is sufficient to go forward. There’s little latitude in their mind.
I don’t think a lot of police officers say, “I’m going to arrest people wrongfully,” but there are wrongful arrests, and again, when we get the audio and video tape from the police vehicle, we will often hear things the police officer did not include in the written police report that are often extremely revealing.
Video and Audio Recording of DUI Police Stops
Interviewer: Do most officers have a video camera installed on their cruisers? Most of the time, does the recording support the police or the client in a DUI arrest?
Jerald Novak: The way the dash cam video works is the video camera is constantly running, and it’s recorded into a hard drive. There’s a buffer zone. The camera is always running. Once they illuminate the emergency lighting in an effort to stop a vehicle, the dash cam video will go back several minutes and then save that video to a hard drive.
The Police Cruisers Are Equipped with a Dashboard Camera and Most Officers Wear a Lapel Microphone to Record the Audio of a Stop
Then the police officer can capture the traffic violation that he is making the alleged stop for and then he also has a lapel microphone, so usually everything is recorded by the police officer, both audio and video.
Here in Illinois, there is no requirement that the police departments audio or video tape a DUI arrest. Legislation has just been passed that beginning in July of 2014, it will be mandatory for all police departments to record those DUI arrests.
In July of 2014, Officers Will Be Required to Video Tape the Mandatory 20 Minute Observation Period Prior to Administering a Breath Test
Additionally, once the defendant or driver is arrested and taken to the station, they will be required to video tape the mandatory 20 minute observation period. This observation period is required by Illinois law before someone submits to a breath test at the station. Then they will be required to video tape during the processing session.
This Video Recording Can Provide Additional Defenses
That’s really important because a lot of times the police currently will just video tape the stop and the arrest. They will not video tape the 20 minute observation period or the processing. Oftentimes, when we are lucky enough to get video tape where the client was videotaped during the observation or processing, we can see errors in ways the breath testing equipment was prepared.
We also see errors in the way the police officer indicated to the client how to go forward with providing a breath sample. Often, we can show that the breath sample was obtained wrongfully or by not following procedure, which would invalidate the results of those tests.
The fact that video tape is going to be much more prevalent after July of 2014 is something we absolutely welcome and look forward to.