The Truth About Cars » Dashboard Camera The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 29 Jun 2014 16:00:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Dashboard Camera Texas Appeals Court: Driver Has No Right to Dashcam Video Fri, 12 Aug 2011 14:09:08 +0000

Drivers have no recourse if police say the tape from a dashboard-mounted video camera is not available, according to a ruling Wednesday from the Texas Court of Appeals. Mark Lee Martin wanted to defend himself against drug possession charges filed in the wake of an August 29, 2008 traffic stop, but he was told no video was available.

Travis County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Jennings claimed that he pulled over Martin that evening because he failed to signal a left-hand turn. Within less than two weeks after the incident, Martin’s attorney formally requested that the department preserve video evidence from the stop. Subpoenas were issued to ensure “all videos and dispatch calls” would be saved. At trial, Jennings was asked why the camera evidence had not been kept.

“Since I didn’t put it in my report it wasn’t preserved because I didn’t believe it had any type of evidential value,” Jennings told the court.

The dashcam is automatically activated when an officer turns on his emergency lights. Department policy states that all video must automatically be saved for thirty days. Jennings could not say whether his machine was operating that night, but he would have noted either at the beginning or end of the shift if the device had not been functional. Jennings stated that the only way to know for sure if the video had been taken would have been if he had preserved the video. Martin argued the police were obviously hiding evidence.

“The officers intentionally destroyed the video and thereby put exculpatory evidence as far as the search is concerned or evidence favorable to the accused out of the reach of the accused,” Martin’s attorney claimed. “We feel that for no other reason the search is invalid and any evidence found as a result of that search should be suppressed.”

The appellate court found no merit in this argument.

“We agree with the state that the record supports a finding by the district court that the police did not act in bad faith,” Justice Bob Pemberton wrote. “The United States Supreme Court has held that ‘unless a criminal defendant can show bad faith on the part of the police, failure to preserve potentially useful evidence does not constitute a denial of due process of law.’”

The court found no evidence of bad faith because the officer testified that he had “no clue” whether there even was a recording made.

“There is no indication in the record that Jennings or his supervisors handled the videotape in question any differently than they handled other videotapes,” Pemberton wrote. “Nor is there any indication in the record that the tape was not preserved because of any improper motive on the part of Jennings or other officers.”

The court concluded that failure to follow the instructions on the subpoena was not evidence of bad faith because Jennings testified that he never received the document.

A copy of the unpublished decision is available in a PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Martin v. Texas (Court of Appeals, State of Texas, 8/10/2011)


]]> 13
South Carolina Supreme Court Busts Town for Ignoring Camera Law Wed, 13 Jul 2011 14:13:47 +0000

In 1998, South Carolina lawmakers mandated that police use dashboard mounted cameras to document the arrest of anyone arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). The state supreme court on Monday ruled that the town of Mount Pleasant was not in compliance with this statute, which states a suspect “must have his conduct at the incident site and the breath test site video recorded.”

DUI arrests have been a major moneymaker for the town of 67,000. Between 1998 and 2008, Mount Pleasant made 2796 DUI arrests, ranking first among municipalities in the state. It should have had the top priority in receiving cameras from the state Department of Public Safety, but it only asked for and received seven. By comparison, the town of Moncks Corner had nearly twice as many cameras for just 198 arrests. Instead of buying cameras to meet legal requirements, town officials spent $65,145 for a “Town of Mount Pleasant” sign placed at a freeway exit. They also paid $100,000 to a marketing firm to come up with a town slogan and $6 million to buy a parcel of property known as the “O.K. Tire Store.”

Mount Pleasant officials believed they could get away with this because the dashcam law was written to take effect gradually as the video equipment was distributed throughout the state. In 2007, the high court referred to this provision as providing “a reasonable grace period.” In the present case, the justices saw the town as attempting to evade its legal responsibility with an overly clever reading of the letter of the law.

“We find the town’s protracted failure to equip its patrol vehicles with video cameras, despite its ‘priority’ ranking, defeats the intent of the legislature and violates the statutorily-created obligation to videotape DUI arrests,” Justice Donald W. Beatty wrote for the court. “Accordingly, we do not believe that the Town should be able to continually evade its duty by relying on subsection (G) of section 56-5-2953.”

The court found that although the city did not necessarily have to spend its own funds for the cameras, it was responsible for requesting them from the state Department of Public Safety.

“We find the town’s explanation is disingenuous,” Beatty wrote. “Admittedly, the legislature was silent with respect to a time requirement for when vehicles must be equipped with video cameras. However, applying the rules of statutory construction, we find the town’s interpretation would defeat the legislative intent of section 56-5-2953 and the overall DUI reform enacted in 1998.”

The ruling affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of DUI charges against Treva Roberts for a November 1, 2007 incident.


]]> 6