The federal government has reported that nearly 22 million traffic stops occur each year. It’s important for drivers to know the rules, responsibilities, and rights in play when these encounters occur. Many of the dynamics of a traffic stop have changed since the 1990s with the advent of police dashcams, which can capture both video and audio of these stops. Where before evidence obtained during traffic stops was subject to conjecture regarding what occurred, dashcams offer an objective means of gathering information about what happened during the stop that can be admissible in court.
It’s important to remember that the video and audio evidence created by dashcams can play a major role in determining guilt or innocence. The basic advice set for below serves as a guide for those who face traffic stops where dashcams are involved.
Be as cooperative as possible when you’re pulled over by a law enforcement officer. If a police officer asks you your name, provide it. Be polite and as pleasant as possible. If you aren’t, the dashcam will surely catch it.
Remember that it’s very likely that whatever happens will be captured by the officer’s dashcam, if his or her vehicle is equipped with one. These cameras record both video and audio of the event. Assume anything you say and do will be heard and seen by a judge and jury.
Request that the interaction between yourself and the officer occur in front of the dashcam, if it is at all possible. Evidence provided by these cameras can mean the difference between the word of two individuals in a trial, versus a recording of the acts and words that actually occurred during the stop.
Remember that an officer might ask you to step out of range of the camera, claiming that the area within range of the dashcam is unsafe due to traffic conditions. The officer’s suggestion could be well-intended or not. If the officer seeks to move the interaction away from the dashcam, you have the right to ask the officer to state on camera why he or she seeks to do so.
Hire an experienced, qualified lawyer for your case. He or she will likely request a copy of resulting video of the dashcam from authorities, and other such evidence. Remember: How evidence is presented in court can strongly determine a conviction or an acquittal.
Assume that there is a dashcam, or that a dashcam is in operation in all cases of traffic stops. Some departments haven’t installed them, while some dashcams are inoperable. Either way, assume that there is a dashcam in all cases.
Simply, don’t be disrespectful, argumentative or confrontational to an officer. A defendant seldom wins the favor of a judge or jury with such behavior, even if you are in the right.
Don’t forget that you have Constitutional rights that you can assert in the event of a traffic stop. The Fourth Amendment bars police officers from conducting unreasonable searches and seizures. However, if a police officer can reasonably state why a search of your vehicle is necessary, he or she might be able to search your car despite your refusal. This is called probable cause, and his reasons should be caught on the dashcam as well.
Don’t assume that just because a dashcam is in use, and that you conducted yourself properly, that you will prevail in court. Guilt or innocence is determined by the weight of all evidence presented in court, and ultimately the decision is up to a judge or jury. The best thing you can do is present yourself as polite and respectful to an officer so that the judge will see your actions in a good light.
Don’t assume you can represent yourself successfully in court without legal representation. A good lawyer can help make the most of all the evidence – including dashcam footage – in building a case on your behalf.
Since more than 22 million traffic stops occur every year in the United States, there’s a good chance that you or someone you know will be pulled over. It’s important to remember that the evidence presented by police dashcams can be an important equalizer when accounts of what happened during a traffic stop differ. Just as important to remember is anything that is said or done in front of a dashcam can be presented in a court of law. While dashcam evidence can help a defendant, it’s also important to hire a qualified criminal defense attorney, who can make the most of all evidence -- including dashcam footage -- in building a case on your behalf.
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