The police are required to videotape all DUI arrests under South Carolina law. All police vehicles in the state are equipped (or should be equipped) with video cameras; and, when the police initiate a traffic stop based on reasonable suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI), they must start recording as soon as they turn on their lights.
If you have been arrested for DUI, it is important to understand how the dash camera footage of your arrest may be able to help with your defense. It is also important to understand how (and when) prosecutors can use this dash camera footage against you. As with all other aspects of a DUI case in South Carolina, strict rules apply, and you need to work with an experienced defense lawyer who can use these rules to your advantage.
How Dash Camera Footage Can Help Your DUI Defense
Let’s start with how dash camera footage can help your DUI case in South Carolina. Let’s say you were driving home after a night out, and you saw blue lights in your rearview mirror. The police officer started recording when he or she turned on the lights (as required by South Carolina law), and the officer’s dash camera recorded your entire DUI arrest.
In this scenario, there are a variety of ways your defense lawyer might be able to use the officer’s dash camera footage to your advantage. For example:
- The dash camera footage does not suggest you were driving under the influence. If the officer’s dash camera footage does not show you driving erratically, drifting out of your lane, or running a red light or stop sign, your lawyer may be able to challenge your arrest based on a lack of reasonable suspicion.
- The dash camera footage shows that the officer failed to properly administer the breathalyzer. When administering the breathalyzer, police officers in South Carolina must follow a specific set of rules and procedures. If the dash cam footage shows that the officer administered your breath test improperly, your BAC reading may be inadmissible in court.
- The dash camera footage shows that the officer failed to properly administer the field sobriety tests (FSTs). Specific requirements also apply to the administration of the field sobriety tests (FSTs). If the footage shows that the officer failed to properly explain the tests or had you perform the tests on unlevel ground (among other issues), these test results may be inadmissible as well.
- The dash camera footage shows that the officer failed to read your Miranda rights. The police must read your Miranda rights before interrogating you in custody. If there is no evidence that the arresting officer read your rights, then you may also have grounds to keep any statements you made after being taken into custody out of court.
- The dash camera footage shows that you passed the FSTs. In addition to showing police mistakes or misconduct, the dash camera footage of your DUI arrest could also show that there is no evidence of impairment. For example, even if the arresting officer reported that you failed the FSTs, the footage may show that you were fully able to maintain control of your faculties.
Again, these are just examples. When you hire a defense lawyer to represent you, your lawyer can obtain the dash camera footage from your DUI arrest and review it to determine all of the ways it can potentially help (or hurt) your defense. Based on what the footage shows, your lawyer can then help you make informed decisions about how to handle your case—whether you need to consider a plea bargain or diversionary program, or you have grounds to fight your DUI charge in court.
How Dash Camera Footage Can Hurt Your DUI Defense
While there are a variety of ways an experienced defense lawyer may be able to use the dash camera footage of your DUI arrest to your advantage, these defenses won’t always be possible. In some cases, the arresting officer’s dash camera footage will work to the prosecution’s advantage instead. For example, dash camera footage of your DUI arrest could hurt your defense if:
- The dash camera footage of your traffic stop shows that you were driving dangerously in a manner consistent with alcohol impairment.
- The dash camera footage shows that the arresting officer followed the protocols for properly administering the breathalyzer.
- The dash camera footage shows that the arresting officer followed the protocols for properly administering the FSTs.
- The dash camera footage shows the officer reading your Miranda rights before you admitted to drinking and driving.
- The dash camera footage confirms the arresting officer’s interpretation of your performance on the FSTs.
Here, too, these are just examples. Experienced prosecutors will thoroughly review the footage of your arrest and determine all of the ways they can use this footage against you. If the footage shows that you were driving under the influence, this could present challenges for your defense, and you will need to rely on your lawyer to determine what other defense options you have available.
What if Your DUI Stop Wasn’t Recorded?
Even though the police are required to record all DUI stops, some DUI stops don’t get recorded. So, what happens if your DUI arrest wasn’t caught on video?
If the officer who arrested you failed to record your DUI stop, this could potentially be enough to get your DUI charge dismissed. However, the officer may also be able to submit an affidavit stating that the camera was inoperable. If this happens, and if prosecutors can show that the failure to record your arrest was justified, they may still be able to use other forms of evidence to secure a conviction.
Discuss Your Case with a Rock Hill DUI Defense Lawyer
Are you facing a DUI charge in Rock Hill, SC? If so, you can contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. To discuss your case with an experienced DUI defense lawyer in confidence, call 803-328-8822 or tell us how we can reach you online now.