In response to a recent article read on MSN News (http://news.msn.com/crime-justice/video?videoid=8b3f6fc5-4c4c-b98f-4d00-345f7177bb23#tscptme), the question is asked, “Can I, or should I, video tape a friend’s arrest?“
The answer: ABSOLUTELY!!
The use of videotaping has become commonplace by law enforcement, especially during DUI arrests. Although South Carolina is the only state that currently has a law requiring DUI arrests to be videotaped by officers, law enforcement agencies in many states, including Utah, have their patrol cars equipped with video cameras, or they have body mounted video cameras on the officers (vid mics). I have even seen a police officer use their personal cell phone to video tape another officer administering field sobriety tests to one of my clients.
Let’s face it, the video tape is the only real way to keep police officers honest. If it’s the cops word against the Defendant, we all know that hearing officers, judges, and juries tend to believe the officer over the Defendant or the defense witnesses. However, if it’s the cops word versus the video tape, the video tape wins every time, as it is incapable of telling a lie or making a mistake. A video is a 100% accurate reflection of the facts. For that reason, if you are ever in the car with someone who is being investigated for DUI, you can and should record everything that happens during the interaction with the officer, especially the field sobriety tests.
I have heard from a few people that they have tried to videotape an officer during an arrest and they were told they could not do so and if they did they would be arrested. This is not true. An officer in public can be videotaped just like any other person. More importantly, it could be argued that an officer interfering with a Defendant’s attempt to obtain and preserve evidence for his defense, results in a violation of the Defendant’s Right to Due Process, to gather evidence, and to raise a defense such that the case against the Defendant could be dismissed. So if you ever have an interaction with law enforcement, preserve the evidence for your own sake, and video/audio record the entire interaction or have another passenger in the car do it for you.
More from the ACLU on your rights for taking videotape at http://www.aclupa.org/issues/freespeech/kyrwhentakingphotosandmaki.htm