If you are pulled over for suspected drunk driving in New Jersey, it is very likely that the police will make a video recording. Remember that your words and actions will be videotaped from the moment an officer turns on the police car’s lights. Even if you feel that the stop is not justified, always remain polite and compliant because a judge may later view the tape. Although it might seem like video of a DWI arrest will seal the case against you, video evidence can actually be helpful to your defense—especially if your rights have been violated or the officers exaggerated their observations when filling out their reports.
When Are Suspects Recorded?
Currently, the New Jersey State Police record both the motor vehicle stop as well as the subsequent roadside investigation (including the field sobriety tests). The State Police do not currently videotape suspects taking breathalyzer tests while back in custody at the State Police barracks.
On March 1, 2015, a new law took effect requiring all newly purchased municipal police cars to be equipped with mobile video recording systems. The requirement applies to police cars primarily used for traffic stops. Many municipal police departments record the initial stop, the roadside investigation and some even record the administration of the breathalyzer test back at the station.
Mobile Video Recording (MVR) Technology
MVR devices coordinate the operation of a video camera mounted in the police car with the overhead police lights on the top of the police car. When the lights are turned on to pull a car over, the video starts recording. The video is electronically time and date stamped. Police officers wear portable remote microphones to record audio of your exchange. Anything you say to the police will be a part of that video record. Consequently, if you are pulled over under suspicion of drunk driving, you should not make any statements to the police until you have spoken to an experienced New Jersey DWI lawyer (except basic information like your name, address, date of birth, etc.) You may think you are helping your case, but you cannot anticipate how your words will later be used against you in court.
Video recording systems in older police stations tend to use dated technology. The quality of the video and sound from these older wall-mounted devices varies greatly from precinct to precinct. Some recordings may be so poor as to be completely indecipherable.
Does the Judge Always See The Video?
The judge will not see the video unless either your attorney or the prosecutor introduces it as evidence in your trial. In order to be admitted, the arresting officer and/or officer who administered the breathalyzer must also testify. The judge cannot view the video of his or her own accord.
There are objections that can be raised to prevent the judge from viewing the tape or admitting it as evidence. Most often, a defendant will object that the recording contains statements that constitute admissions, on grounds that they have not been advised of their right to remain silent. Even if these parts of the video are redacted, other parts of the recording can still be admitted (for example video of the defendant stumbling while being fingerprinted or slurring words).
How Can the Video Help Me?
In order to affect a valid traffic stop, the police need a justifiable reason to pull you over—otherwise all the evidence subsequently gathered must be excluded at your trial. If the police claim to have pulled you over because you were swerving erratically, but the video shows that you were not, this may be grounds for dismissal of your case.
The video recording should also capture the field sobriety tests. If, for example, you failed the “standing on one leg” test because it was administered on challenging terrain, you may receive the benefit of the doubt in court.
If a police officer requests that a driver take a breathalyzer test, the driver cannot legally refuse. The officer is required to read from a prepared statement when asking the driver to take the test. If there is a dispute as to whether a driver actually refused to take the test, a video recording can clear this up.
Also, if an officer does not adhere to the required 20-minute observation period prior to administering a breathalyzer, the video can prove this, and it could be grounds for an acquittal or dismissal.
If a recording is lost or taped over, this may constitute a due process violation that requires the dismissal of your case.
New Jersey DWI Lawyer Edward M. Janzekovich Knows How to Use Video Recordings to his Clients’ Advantage
If you have been arrested for drunk driving in New Jersey, you should begin crafting your defense right away. New Jersey DUI attorney Edward M. Janzekovich is known throughout New Jersey for consistently getting positive results for his clients. To learn more about how we can help, call us at 732-257-1137 or contact us online today. We serve clients throughout New Jersey including Monmouth County, Middlesex County, and Ocean County.