- Rob Werking
BODY WORN CAMERAS AND STANDARD FIELD SOBRIETY TESTING
Recently Colorado passed extensive reforms to law enforcement. Senate Bill 20-217 titled Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity was signed into law (Gov. Polis) on June 19, 2020. This bill followed the murder of George Floyd by the hands of law enforcement in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, 2020.
Officers must wear and record interactions with the public through the use of a Body Worn Camera (BWC). Although several agencies began the use of body camera's years ago, many departments including the State Patrol were reluctant to use the devices. The video recordings of the actual contact has proven to be very useful evidence. This video evidence can either make the prosecution's case or it can be used to dispute much of the prosecution's case.
In terms of Driving Under the Influence (Section 42-4-1301, C.R.S.), this evidence can be extremely valuable. A DUI / DWAI investigation generally starts with the VEHICLE IN MOTION, followed by the second phase PERSONAL CONTACT and finally the PRE-ARREST SCREENING phase of the investigation. (See generally, DWI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)). Video evidence of the actual interaction from the moment law enforcement stopped the vehicle (or came upon an accident) and the interaction of the person being investigated including the roadside sobriety tests is extremely valuable.
During a DUI stop, most law enforcement officers will ask a suspected DUI driver to get out of the vehicle and perform the Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) or alternately called the Roadsides. The three (3) distinct maneuvers - Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, Walk and Turn and One Leg Stand are scored by the officer. Each score is subjective and unless the performance by the suspected driver is recorded, a jury would never see the actual test performance but rather simply hear the officer testify as to how the person performed.
Often times, the camera catches a client in their worst moment and efforts to mitigate sentencing can begin immediately. However, there are times in which there exists a disconnect between the suspected driver's video performance and the notes that the law enforcement officer took. These are the cases in which video evidence makes a difference.