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Senate bill could close DUI loophole for defense

By Mayci McLeod

A bill discussed today in a state Senate subcommittee could change the way DUI cases are prosecuted. Dash cam footage is vital to a DUI case. It’s the law that DUI stops and field sobriety tests be videotaped and the way the law stands today, if that footage isn’t up to par, the case could be thrown out completely. 

If dash cam footage of a DUI stop and field sobriety test is out of focus or hard to see, a defense attorney will argue you can’t really tell what’s going on. 

Defense Attorney Stephan Futeral says, “From my perspective, it’s the best evidence we have. Whether the person is guilty of DUI or not. It is the best evidence that any of us could have as to exactly what happened on the side of the road.”

He says without clear footage, the only evidence left is the officer’s word against the defendant. Because of that, poor audio, grainy video, or the subject stepping out of the frame often means the case could be thrown out. Solicitors who prosecute DUIs say they are at a disadvantage because so much of the case is dependent on the dash cam footage. 

Ricky Todd, with the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, says, “There’s so many things they have to do on video tape to even get the case into court for a long time if anyone walked off camera, we didn’t have a full video of what they were doing and typically that would mean that section of the video is thrown out.”

But that could all change with a bill in the state Senate. The bill states the failure to capture all of the field sobriety test wouldn’t be grounds for dismissal of a DUI case. Defense attorneys say if this bill passes and the tape is no longer mandatory for the case to go to court, drivers will be losing rights and it takes away accountability for law enforcement.

Futeral says, “In this day and age where we’re asking for everybody to– we’re asking law enforcement to start wearing cameras on their bodies, this is a big step backwards. It’s basically to cover up any mistakes law enforcement makes when they’re making a DUI arrest. That’s what it’s all about.”

News 2 spoke to 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone. He says he supports this bill because it seeks to return the purpose of the law to make it tougher on drunk drivers, not on law enforcement officers who are just trying to do their job.

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