Police body cam footage becoming key piece of evidence in DUI cases

An example of a body camera being worn by Honolulu police officers.
An example of a body camera being worn by Honolulu police officers.
Updated: Mar. 1, 2019 at 6:07 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - More DUI cases are relying on body cams because the videos provide what police reports cannot: The bigger picture of the scene during the arrest.

But the videos aren’t just helping the prosecution.

In about half the cases, defense attorneys say, they’re helping the drivers.

Hawaii News Now obtained one of the first HPD body cam videos used in a DUI case.

In 2017, while HPD officers were still testing the devices, an officer pulled over the driver of the truck. The officer asked the the man if he wanted to participate in a field sobriety test, and the man agreed.

[Read more: HPD: Deployment of body cameras to all officers ahead of schedule]

The video shows the officer having to repeatedly provide instructions to the driver, who sometimes giggles.

While the video appears to be damaging, at one point it actually helps the driver’s defense.

The officer can be heard saying, “I’m going to tell you right now, from what I saw if you don’t take this test, I will arrest you. I have enough to arrest you.”

The driver’s attorney, Jonathan Burge, said that statement ― threatening arrest ― gave him grounds to get some evidence thrown out, including the breath test.

It’s ammunition that wouldn’t have been found in a standard, paper police report.

“It’s a fourth amendment search, so if that’s coercive, everything after that needs to be suppressed, so that gives me something never had with the forms,” he said.

Attorneys say they were originally worried that body cam footage would hurt their clients, but instead it has been fair to both sides.

Victor Bakke, another attorney who is using body cam video in DUI cases, said about half of the body cam videos aren’t favorable to prosecutors.

The videos, for example, show judges things like how freeway noise made it hard for drivers to hear instructions or how wind, or uneven pavement, affected field sobriety tests.

“It’s kind of a coin flip, because it’s going to be harder in some cases, it’s going to be easy in others,"Burge said.

"You’ll get drunk people who say dumb things on camera open and shut case for them and you’ll get other cases that show the person did it very well maybe some things the police say aren’t the right thing”

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