September 1, 2023
“A picture is worth a thousand words” when traffic stops result in drug trafficking charges thanks to the body-worn camera.
As a criminal defense law office, we often see felony drug trafficking cases and misdemeanor drug possession cases from “traffic stops”. In the past, proving a police violation of Constitutional rights often devolved into a credibility contest between the accused and the police officers. But Body Worn Cameras (BWC) have changed the truth-seeking picture and proven helpful in these cases.
With the audiovisual record made by police agency-issued BWCs the courts at all levels now get to see and hear the truth with their own eyes and ears. “Two heads are better than one,” but thanks to BWCs, now “four heads are better than one.”
The Value of BWC Evidence in a Criminal Case
If you’re facing criminal charges as a result of a traffic stop, BWC evidence may benefit your case. Consider the recent opinion of the Florida appellate court. This is the court that sets “the law” in the state. The appellate court is made up of a three-judge panel. They recently explained how they review defense motions to suppress evidence when BWC evidence is shown to the one trial judge. Normally, the “standard of review” applicable to a “motion to suppress” requires the three-judge panels to defer to a single trial judge’s factual findings “but to review legal conclusions de novo.” See Pantin v. State, 872 So. 2d 1000, 1002 (Fla. 4th DCA 2004).
However, at a hearing held on the motion to suppress evidence seized by the police-citizen encounter was captured on a BWC and was played for the single trial judge. In the recent panel opinion, back by Florida Supreme Court case law, the court wrote:
“We have reviewed the video. To evaluate it, we are in the same position as the trial court. See McCloud v. State, 208 So. 3d 668, 676 (Fla. 2016) (recognizing when a videotape or audio recording is part of the record on appeal, the trial court is in no better position to evaluate that evidence than the appellate court). To the extent the trial court’s factual findings are based on the bodycam video recording, we apply a less deferential standard of review.
See State v. Blocker 2023 Fla. App. LEXIS 2823, * 6 (04/26/23) 48 Fla. L. Weekly D 867, 2023 WL 3082868 (emphasis added).
In other words, when BWC evidence is presented to a single trial judge, both the state and the accused benefit from three more judges. These judges are reviewing any errors a busy trial judge may have missed in the process of deciding whether or not to suppress evidence.
In this instance, four heads are better than one. “This is especially important when human freedom is at stake. If BWC evidence is captured, reviewed, and presented, it can save your case.
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