Officer Thinks He Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Video
DF was out with an old girlfriend. He was the quasi-designated driver and she was drinking freely. Reverting to their boyfriend/girlfriend tendencies, an argument began and she demanded that he let her out of the car. She would “walk home.” He did, but couldn’t bring himself to drive off and leave her on the streets of downtown Land O’ Lakes at that hour.
An astute law enforcement officer took notice of them and pulled in to investigate. She, of course, threw him under the bus and the officer, after being told by the angry ex that he was drunk, detained him for a DUI investigation.
Although the officer had audio/video recording equipment installed in his vehicle and he turned it on at some point, His testimony was predictable enough - slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, odor of alcohol, unsteady on his feet, the standard boilerplate - but when we got the recording, he never bothered to follow Sheriff’s Office SOP and video his contact with DF by taking DF to the camera or pointing the camera at DF. There was just a video of the empty roadside. However the audio reflected something different than the cop's recollection. And without the required video, there was no way to tell.
We filed a Motion to Dismiss for violation of DF’s due process rights and the judge agreed that the cop’s willful failure to follow the General Orders of the Sheriff’s Office deprived DF of critical evidence and violated due process. The motion was granted.
The State Attorney took issue with that ruling and appealed. Although the higher court sent the case back to the trial court for additional findings, the judge issued an even stronger order dismissing the case again, finding that the failure to video DF was done in “bad faith” and violated due process.
The State, unwilling to accept defeat, appealed again and, once again, the higher court reversed and sent it back down. We filed a third motion asking for the evidence to be suppressed. It was granted and, guess what? The appealed again!
This time the higher court affirmed the ruling and we prevailed.