An arrest on suspicion of drunk driving in New Jersey is an unpleasant experience, and it may leave you frightened, confused and concerned for your future. Among many other things, you may wonder what will become of the video evidence that was recorded during your stop and, possibly, at the station following your arrest. Thankfully, neither the fact that you were arrested and charged nor the fact that your stop was captured on video guarantees you will be convicted. A qualified DWI attorney can help you challenge each piece of evidence, including the video recording, which may turn out to help you in the end.
Probable Cause Is Needed To Make A DWI Stop
When police pull you over to make a DWI arrest, they first must have what is known as “probable cause” to believe you have committed a traffic violation or crime. This is a minimal legal standard applied to most arrests and police searches in the United States. A dash-mounted video camera may help an officer prove in court that he or she had probable cause when making a traffic stop.
But not all traffic violations are caught on camera, and officers are generally taken at their word when it comes to probable cause. The same is not true of the evidence used to convict drivers in court, where the standard is much higher. There, prosecutors must convince a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This requires substantial evidence of a driver's guilt.
This is the primary reason police use dash-mounted cameras in many DWI stops. Specifically, they use them to capture statements, erratic behavior, the results of the field sobriety tests, as well as other incriminating evidence. When the contents of a DWI video are harmful to a defendant, the best strategy is to challenge the video itself. When a seemingly incriminating video is admitted in court, the evidence shown on it can still be challenged by a DWI defense lawyer.
As a rule of thumb, it's rarely a good idea to say much to police officers. Always be polite and provide identification when asked, but do not reveal too much information that could be incriminating. Of course, this advice isn't of much use if you have already made statements that led to an arrest. The good news is, a DWI lawyer can challenge the meaning, quality and validity of any recorded statements you made.
Recordings Of Field Sobriety Tests
Video evidence is also used to record the results of the field sobriety tests in New Jersey. This test uses three components to judge sobriety: the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk and turn, and the one-leg stand. They're all admissible in court as evidence of inebriation. Video recordings of field sobriety tests can sometimes misrepresent reality. An experienced lawyer can point out an officer's failure to provide a flat surface with a visible straight line for the walk and turn, or the presence of treacherous weather and a wet ground, for example. Also, some aspects of the sobriety tests are invisible to video while others are exaggerated. In the horizontal gaze nystagmus, an officer watches the eyes of a driver for involuntary movements that indicate alcohol consumption. But these movements are too subtle for a judge to gauge by video. And the stumbling that allegedly indicates intoxication in the walk and turn and one-leg stand is not unique to drunk drivers; many critics contend these tests are designed to fail most drivers. A dash-mounted video recording in the hands of a qualified attorney can do more than poke holes in the field sobriety testing.