One thing that has greatly influenced a defense attorney’s ability to defend their clients is the ever increasing availability of video in our everyday lives. As a criminal defense lawyer, I can tell you there is nothing better than receiving a video indicating your client is innocent. This can usually be handed over to the District Attorney’s office and can greatly influence the mitigation process. However, this topic is a double edged sword because there is nothing harder to defend against than a video showing your client committing the crime. At this point, it comes down to the skilled negotiations of your defense attorney.
This really comes into play when defending against a DUI or any alcohol related charge. Whenever alcohol is involved it creates a large discrepancy between what people think happened and what actually happened. A lot of the time our clients will think they remember the situation perfectly, down to every last detail. A lot of what we hear is “the officer had no right to stop me,” “the officer never read me my rights,” or “I wasn’t doing anything wrong.” These are classic statements that we hear in this office. The problem with alcohol related incidents is that the alcohol affects the way we remember things. Sometimes it will erase the memory we had all together. This is where the technology comes into play. When officers have body cameras or dash board cameras it takes the guessing game out of the incident. We and everyone else can see exactly what happened during the event in question. A lot of times clients will watch the video that the police provide and remember the incident in a completely different light. It is important to realize that video footage can either help or hurt you depending on the situation. This is just how our society is evolving. There is more and more access to technical equipment like this. Due to this availability, it is no wonder that cameras are beginning to show up more and more in these kinds of investigations. They are almost turning into a requirement on ALL investigations.
There is a silver lining to all of this. Yes, if you are breaking the law and you get caught on camera, there is not a lot of wiggle room in negotiations and this could hurt you. However, if you are falsely accused of something this access to video can, in turn, provide proof of your innocents. Video footage like this can also help to keep police officers honest while they initiate and conduct investigations. So, even though it might not always be in your favor, it seems to be in the general population’s best interest to have access to this kind of evidence. This video system is a way to hold ALL parties accountable for their actions, defendant’s and officers alike.
Having the kind of awareness that video can be so powerful in a courtroom; it is possible to use it to your advantage. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but a video is worth even more. Installing cameras in your house may provide great coverage in a domestic violence situation. Having a go pro on your dash board could help you in the case of a DUI. If you are possibly going to be subject to video surveillance, maybe it’s a good idea to have it work for you instead of against you. Be aware of your surroundings, be aware of the possibility that you are on camera. It could make or break your case.
By Shannon Lynch