Mobile Video Audio Recording System (MVARS) Explained
Law enforcement officers in the state of California are increasingly using MVARS (Mobile Video/Audio Recording Systems) to record field sobriety tests, conversations with suspects, driving patterns of drivers before a stop and to record DUI stops. MVARS usually referred to as “dash cams” were used first by law enforcement officers in Texas in the late 1980’s to maintain law enforcement in remote rural areas. The camera was placed on a tripod, and the video footage was saved on a VHS cassette. This meant that they were bulky, big and costly. As a result, police officers did not start using dash cams until the price dropped in the late 2000’s. However, this does not mean that all law enforcement agencies use dash cams since some still do not use them.
MVARS has been installed in a majority of California Highway Patrol vehicles.
The system continuously records on its forward-facing camera. It automatically saves the video as soon as the police officer activates the vehicle’s emergency lights. The police officer is not allowed to turn off the MVARS, and it must record your car and how you drove just before you were stopped. The video footage from these devices can be extremely invaluable to your case since it can contradict the account of the police officer.
Law enforcement officers must have a probable cause of a traffic violation for them to initiate a traffic stop, which is typically the first step in the DUI investigation process. Without a probable cause, the driver cannot be stopped. Unfortunately, a majority of police officers make up the probable cause for a stop, by claiming that a driver never used a blinker, or they ran a stop sign, or they were swerving, and so on, so forth. The MVARS, however, can show that the officer had no probable cause to pull over the driver. It can also show that the blinker was used, the driver did stop at the stop sign, and there was no swerving.
Dash & Body Cameras
Even in law enforcement agencies that use dash cams, some police officers are finding new crooked ways to circumvent the transparency that comes with dash cams. More often than not, police officers will steer the driver away from the camera’s view to carry out field sobriety tests. The officer will then fabricate a report claiming that the driver “failed” the field sobriety test and provides little or no explanation as to why the driver failed the test. Hopefully, these twisted behaviors will be a thing of the past, as more law enforcement agencies start using body cameras together with dash cams.
Body cameras will provide evidence to support or disprove any claims made by a police officer. Therefore, if a police officer justifies a DUI arrest by claiming that the suspect had slurred speech, and blood-shot, watery eyes, the video footage will verify the claims that they make. If a police officer determines that an individual failed a field sobriety test, the footage from the body camera will support or disprove the police officer’s interpretation of the individual’s performance.
Can Video Footage Be Used Against You?
For the police officers, MVARS has proved to be advantageous and also disadvantageous. While the recordings can provide occasional protection to the honest law enforcement officers falsely accused, video evidence can also help the suspects who have been accused of DWI to prove their innocence. In southern California, in case you are driving under the influence on the basis of a video evidence, or in case you are charged, and you believe that the video can exonerate you, you should immediately contract the services of an experienced DUI attorney.
For DUI suspects, MVARS can assist you and your DWI attorney- and everyone else who is involved- see what really happened. If the video evidence does not show that you were driving illegally or erratically, the law enforcement officer may have had no legal reason or reasonable cause to pull you over. Audio is also very important. Your statements or words can be taken out of content in a written police report. However, a complete audio recording will put your statements and words into the right perspective.
Video evidence can also show how you performed on the field sobriety tests; it is no longer just the police officer’s word against yours. Nonetheless, in California in case you are 21 years or older, and not on probation for DWI, you have the right to refuse to take the field sobriety test, and it is a right that you should exercise as a driver in California.
In the past, judges and juries have tended to believe the law enforcement officers instead of suspects in DWI cases. MVARS has leveled the playing field. In numerous DUI cases, a closer look at the video recording can result in a not-guilty verdict or even a dismissal of the case before a trial can start. In case you are charged with a DUI, you can arrange at once to speak with an experienced attorney who is familiar with MVARS and how it can be used to your advantage.
What If the Police Patrol Vehicle Does Not Have A Dashcam. Can I or Someone Else Record the Officers During A Police Stop?
If you or a passenger has a smartphone with a camera or any other device with a camera, you can record as the police perform his/her duties in public. The First Amendment protects the right to public access to information, the right to free press, and the right to discuss the government. Moreover, the courts are fairly unanimous that citizen journalists have the same protections as members of the media. This includes the right to record police officers as they carry out their duties in public as long as the citizen is not recording the police officers covertly, or does not interfere with a police officer duties, or does not break the law while recording.
Whether it comes from a smartphone, a body cam, or a dash cam, video evidence provides transparency during police stops. Transparency means finding out the truth, which is what should be the center of each police case. Unlike police officers, video footage cannot lie.