As of April 1, police officers in West Palm Beach, Florida have begun wearing body cameras. The new measure was implemented in order to dispel negative public opinions about police practices and procedures. The cameras consist of tiny cylinders that can be clipped onto collars, hats, or sunglasses. Each camera is approximately three inches long and weights only three ounces. The West Palm Beach Police Department began training their officers on how to use the devices on Wednesday, April 1, 2015, making the agency one of the first in South Florida to implement recording technology.
Other regions of the United States are also turning to cameras to help improve public perception of police activities. Additionally, President Barack Obama has proposed $75 million in funding for programs to assist police departments in purchasing cameras with the hope of improving police-community relations. West Palm Beach has allocated roughly $200,000 in city funding to purchase the cameras and has set future funding for the program at an additional $615,000. So far, 50 cameras have been implemented with the ultimate goal of 250 cameras in use by 2016.
How can these devices help you in your DUI defense case? Many cases come down to a simple he-said, she-said argument. An audio or video recording of a particular interaction between an officer and a defendant can provide powerful ammunition during negotiations or at trial. First, one of the key strategies in a DUI defense case is ensuring that the arresting officer made an accurate report of the events that transpired. The prosecution and the judge will rely heavily on this report, despite what the defendant may say in response. Many times, police officers forget certain details, copy portions of older reports from previous cases, or bend the truth. A video recording will combat these inaccurate reporting practices and shed light on what actually happened in a particular situation. For example, the officer may write in the report that the defendant failed a particular test, while the video shows that the defendant performed satisfactorily.
Body cameras can also be useful when it comes to protecting an admission or confession obtained by unlawful means from being used against the defendant at trial. The footage from the camera can help determine whether the defendant was properly Mirandized prior to questioning. If you are under arrest, an officer must inform you of your Miranda rights before any questioning can take place. If an officer fails to inform you of your Miranda rights, any statements or confessions made during questioning can be barred from use at trial.
Unfortunately, many witnesses, including police officers, are not always truthful when it comes to providing testimony. A DUI defense attorney can use body camera footage or audio to cross-examine a police officer or witness in the event that he or she is not being entirely candid about what transpired. During cross-examination, the defendant has the opportunity to ask a police officer about what he heard, said, and saw during the event and the testimony that he gave when the prosecutor asked him questions during trial. Body camera footage and audio is especially helpful when the witness is hostile, forgetful, or biased.
If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI in Florida, The Hoffman Firm can help. We provide aggressive legal representation to residents throughout Southern Florida, Miami, and surrounding areas in a wide variety of areas, including robbery and burglary charges, drunk driving, and criminal appeals. Call us now at (305) 249-0090 or contact us online today to set up your free consultation.
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