We have all seen how body cameras worn by police have affected the criminal justice system. Body cam footage can help a prosecutor prove that the defendant committed the crime they are charged with. Such footage often also exposes police misconduct and violations of suspects’ rights.
Keeping state and local police accountable is one of the reasons the South Carolina Legislature passed a law in 2015 requiring all law enforcement officers to wear body cams while on duty. As someone charged with drinking and driving, footage from the arresting officer’s body cam could be crucial to your defense. The video and audio might contradict the police report and the officer’s testimony and show a lack of evidence to arrest you. Or it could expose that the officer violated your rights in a way that renders any evidence gathered during the stop or after the arrest inadmissible in court.
Also, as the defendant and subject of the recording, you have the right to request the body cam audio and video from your DUI arrest. If the authorities fail to produce that data, or what they do provide is incomplete, that could be grounds for dismissal.
Gradually adding body cams
Unfortunately, South Carolina law enforcement agencies have been slow to comply with the law. As of 2022, the Highway Patrol had purchased 730 body cameras but only distributed 489 of them to troopers, according to ABC 15 News. The Department of Public Safety says funding has affected its ability to purchase enough cameras to comply with the law.
A possibly major piece of evidence
Whether the officer who arrested you on DUI charges was wearing a body cam, whether the police will provide footage from that camera on demand and what that footage contains can be hugely important to your case. An experienced defense attorney will know what to look for in the video and audio.