Police agencies throughout the Bay Area are increasingly using Mobile Video/Audio Recording Systems (MVARS) to record DUI investigations that include driving patterns, instruction and performance phases of field sobriety testing, and conversation between officers and motorists. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) has installed these devices in almost all of their patrol cars roving Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Sonoma counties.
Police and their union representatives initially resisted the use of these devices. They were concerned, ironically, with Big Brother watching over them and using the recordings for disciplinary reasons. Some police agencies still refuse to implement them, but many have gotten on board. It does, after all, provide a level of protection for the honest cop who is sometimes the subject of a false claim of abuse.
For the defense, MVARS provide DUI defendants and their counsel with an opportunity to compare what is described in the police report with what actually transpired. If the recording fails to show that a motorist was driving erratically, or not using a turn signal, or running a red light, the tape may be effectively used to expose the officer as incompetent or dishonest. Breath-alcohol testing attempts on preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) devices can often be observed, as well as the absence of the legally required admonition about the right to refuse it. Oral statements attributed to the accused may be reviewed, allowing defense counsel to not only listen to what his or her client purportedly said, but also what the officer said and how he or she said it! Words and utterances may be taken out of context by the police, and this is particularly true in drunk driving investigations.
Judges and jurors are often inclined to believe the word of a police officer over that of a citizen who has been arrested and charged with driving under the influence. With video and audio evidence, the playing field becomes more level. A close review of video and audio evidence can lead to the dismissal of a drunk driving case before trial, or a “not guilty” verdict following a trial.
If properly trained and Board Certified in DUI Defense, your lawyer will obtain MVARS evidence as part of your legal defense.
— Paul Burglin