Videotaping of Maryland DUI/DWI Cases Should become Standard Procedure for All Police Agencies

Maryland DUI/DWI Attorney. I blogged several months ago about a Maryland DUI Case that I handled in the District Court for Anne Arundel County in which my client claimed to have performed the field sobriety tests far better than was indicated by the officer in the Statement of Charges. In that case I subpoenaed the video tape from the Maryland State Police Department and it turned out that my client was correct. The officer had exaggerated or outright fabricated poor performance on the field sobriety tests. I introduced the video into evidence at his trial and he was found not guilty.

Today I had a similar case in the District Court for Baltimore City. My client had the misfortune of passing a late model Chevy Malibu at approximately 1:00 AM on Interstate 95 N. just South of the Harbor Tunnel. About the time he pulled even with the Malibu (doing approximately 85MPH) he realized that it was an undercover Maryland Transportation Authority Police car. He was then pulled over and ultimately arrested for DUI, speeding and negligent driving.

Like my client last month, he swore that although he had had a few beers, he was not intoxicated and had not performed poorly on the standardized field sobriety tests. Again I ordered the tape of the stop, which was actually one of the clearest videos that I have seen but had no audio. When I compared the officer’s observations of my client’s performance on the filed sobriety tests with the video tape I was astounded at the discrepancies between the two. The officer said that he stumbled as he exited the car and had to hold onto the car for balance. The video showed him to walk to the back of the car without the slightest bobble. The officer said that while speaking to him he swayed noticeably. Again, the video showed him standing very steadily for several minutes while the officer questioned him. On the walk and turn test the officer said that he missed heal to toe, stepped off the line and did an improper turn. The video confirmed that on one step he stepped slightly to the left of the imaginary line and that he did an improper turn but he did not miss heal to toe on any of the steps. There were several other disrepancies as well.

Luckily for my client, he was arrested by one of the few police agencies that utilizes dash board cameras in Maryland so that we were able see what actually happened. I don’t necessarily think the officer was intentionally lying but I do think there is a lot of pressure on these officers to make DUI arrests. I also think there is a major flaw in the procedure that all of the police agencies that I deal utilize in DUI cases and that is that the officers do not take contemporaneous notes while the person is conducting the tests. Instead the officer writes the report an hour or more later when he gets back to the station and is then under the psychological pressure of justifying the arrest he just made.

In my career I have represented hundreds of people charged with DUI in Maryland and in only a very small fraction of those cases did I have the benefit of a video recording of the stop. I can’t even count the number of times where there was no video and my client insisted that he or she had performed much better than the officer had indicated in his report. In the overwhelming majority of those cases, the officer’s version was accepted by the court. It is my opinion that it is now time to require that all police vehicles in Maryland be equipped with dash board video cameras. In the digital age this would not be prohibitively expensive and would be invaluable to court’s in determining precisely what happened not only in DUI cases but in many other serious matters that are adjudicated every day by the courts in Maryland.

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