Previously, we looked at how authorities were using the state’s traffic cam system in conjunction with motorists’ reports to hunt down and charge suspected drunk drivers in Minneapolis-St. Paul. The success and accuracy of this practice is still an open question, and it remains susceptible to privacy and ethics questions.
A more acceptable practice that affords protection for field enforcers and civilians alike is the use of in-dash or body video cameras to record stops made. As of 2009, about 60 percent of Minneapolis squad vehicles have cameras installed. A skilled Minneapolis DWI attorney will waste no time in obtaining copies of all video and audio evidence of the DWI stop of his client to review and spot impeachable mistakes in protocol, procedures and police behavior.
They are often powerful pieces of evidence for the defense when it comes to cross-examining the arresting officer/s, establishing and proving the invalidity of State evidence and paving the way for the charge’s dismissal or the defendant’s acquittal.
Many police departments throughout the state base their policies on use of mobile video recording (MVR) equipment for field operations on the policy manual of the Minneapolis PD. The following sections of the Minneapolis PD policy manual are the most relevant for DWI cases:
On the legality of videotaped stops and searches:
“All stops and searches captured on the MVR are presumed to be legal and valid unless evidence indicates otherwise. (09/19/08) (08/28/09)”
On the mechanics of using MVR on the field:
“MVR equipment shall be activated during every stop/contact where a motor vehicle is involved, and will record the stop/contact in its entirety. Officers shall inform those who ask, that video/audio recording equipment is in use. The MVR equipment is designed and installed to automatically engage whenever emergency overhead lights are activated. Officers can also manually activate the MVR equipment. (04/11/07)”
“Officers are prohibited from altering MVR equipment in any way. Officers shall only use MVR recordings issued by the MPD. Officers are prohibited from erasing, re-recording or tampering with MVR recordings. (08/28/09)”
After a DWI Arrest:
“When suspects are arrested for DWI, they shall be taken to the Chemical Testing office, Room 19, for testing and video taping procedures. Suspects may be released after testing and issued a citation if they meet the conditions for issuing a citation in lieu of arrest.”
On retaining MVR recordings:
“Unless otherwise noted, MVR recordings shall be retained for a minimum of 90-days and then may be erased and/or reused. Non-evidentiary recordings that have been erased more than three times should be destroyed. (05/07/07) (07/11/07) (08/28/09)”
Excerpted from 4-219 MOBILE AUDIO AND VIDEO RECORDING EQUIPMENT: Policy and 9-104 ARRESTS FOR DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED (DWI) of the Minneapolis PD Policy Manual.
As the last excerpt indicates, these video recordings only have 90 days until they are reused and/or erased, which is why it’s important for a DWI lawyer to act quickly and obtain copies of all video and audio evidence pertaining to the case. Within that time period, a careful review should reveal any and all mistakes committed by the authorities. In the next installment, we’ll examine the specific points to look for in video and audio recordings to identify these mistakes.
It is critical for anyone charged with a drunk driving offense to know the value of video recordings for his or her defense. An experienced Minnesota DWI defense attorney should know what to look for and increase the chances of avoiding the State’s harsh penalties against DWI offenses.
If you’ve been arrested or charged with a Minnesota DWI, call Kans Law Firm, LLC at (952) 835-6314 for a free case review.