This article will explain why, as a Michigan DUI Lawyer, I almost always requisition a copy of the Police car video in a DUI case. The role of these "dash cam" videos has really evolved as the resolution of the cameras, and the quality of the videos they produce, has gotten better. While the real "role" of any Police care video has always been to document what happened, previous generations of cameras didn't do that nearly as well as the newer models. Advancing technology has led to the upgrading from low-res images to hi-res, almost high-definition footage that can, quite literally, speak for itself.
My Role as a DUI Lawyer is simple: I try to beat, or "knock out" a DUI charge whenever possible. That's like saying, however, that the GM simply makes cars. While that's essentially true, it also overlooks about a million little things that go into that. When there is an exploitable defect in, or question about the evidence, I will leverage that to the fullest extent possible. If the evidence is solid, then I will negotiate with the Prosecutor to reduce the charge or otherwise reach an agreement that will lessen the real-life consequences and make things better for you.
As much as a car is made up of parts, a DUI case is made up of evidence. Just like some parts of the car (engine and transmission, for example) are more important than others (like floor mats and radio knobs), some parts of the evidence (Traffic Stop, Field Sobriety Tests and Breath or Blood Test) are more important than others. Recent improvements in video quality have pushed the potential role of Police in-car video much higher up the ladder. As a result, I have now taken to obtaining a copy of such videos in just about every new DUI case that comes through my Office.
In the past, most in-car video cameras produced what can best be described as low resolution, grainy images. And if that wasn't bad enough, because most DUI's occur at night, the resulting video was low resolution, night-vision imagery. If you've ever seen an ultrasound picture taken from a pregnant woman, then you've seen low-res, low light imagery. I've always been amazed when an ultrasound technician can look at that tiny, grainy image, and identify the sex of the fetus. They can point to what they see as "evidence" of this or that gender all day long, but to me, it just looks mostly like a peanut inside a shell. My point, however, is that understanding what that image really shows requires some explanation or interpretation.
Similarly, I have sat in Court over the years and watched other Lawyers ask an Arresting Officer to explain what their old fashioned, low-resolution in-car video is really showing. Thankfully, I've seen this only as a spectator, and not a participant, because even from that perspective, I realized that, if a Lawyer must have the Officer explain the video, it almost certainly has no value for the Defense. Instead, it should be the Lawyer explaining the video to the Officer.