Why Should You Record Your Interaction with the Police?

In this article we are going to be answering the questions: Why should you record your interaction with the police or law enforcement? Why should you always have your phone available and ready to click record? 

There are a number of apps that are very helpful that will automatically take that recording and throw it up into the cloud. But why should you do it to begin with? What is the point? What is the rationale?

Well, there are a couple of different reasons. The number one reason is that you can legally do it. You are allowed to record.  You can record anything that is going on as long as it not interfering with another officer’s investigation, which in most cases it is not.  If you have been stopped for speeding, or you have been stopped for an investigation of a DUI, you’re allowed to hit that record button. You want your own version of the evidence. You can do that and that is really what it comes down to. Many police officers in Arizona are still not recording stuff.  They do not have body cams; they do not have dashcams and so more often than not, that police officer that is approaching you and talking to you is doing so without anything being recorded. Many people think that everything is being recorded, but we are not there yet. Every single year it seems that more and more officers are getting body cameras and the ability to record. But until everybody and every officer has a body camera it is a good idea to record it on your own. If the police are not recording it and you are not recording it, then what evidence do you have? 

Ultimately, you only have evidence from any witnesses, which in many cases there are no witnesses. Or you have your testimony versus the officer’s testimony. I cannot tell you how many times when we sit down with people, who have hired our law firm, to review the police report we discover that police report does not match anything that happened on the side of the road with our client.  This is understandable because the police are not trying to write their report to explain every detail that happened on the side of the road, they are writing their report to justify their charges against you.  So, if they charged you with a DUI, the things that go into that report are things that are used to justify those DUI charges.  Typically, the police are not going to include any commentary in their report about how cooperative you were or how successful you were in doing certain things. They are only looking for clues. Those clues as they call them would be things that you failed to do which support their claim and provide justification for them stopping to investigate you for a DUI. Police write their reports to support their side of the story. 

We also recommend that people document their version of the events.  So, when the situation is over and you are released from custody, go home and write down everything that happened.  Take the time to think about the events that occurred, then sit down and write it all down.  Get it down on paper so you have a record of it and can remember it.  Cases in criminal law can go on for months and months, sometimes years. And many times, people’s memories just do not hold up over that period of time.  That is why getting it down on paper is so helpful. 

But if you have video recording of what happened and you save it, that can prove to be exculpatory. Which means it can show your innocence or it can show that an officer was doing something wrong. That’s incredibly valuable in a case and this is why we recommend people turn on their cameras.   

There have been many situations as well where police will claim that they were recording, but when we request the footage, the stuff disappears. It is just not there anymore. There was a situation where some officers had the ability to click on their body cams. They would click it on, click it off, click it on, click it off and they would do it several times during their shift.  The real question is why would they ever turn it off?  

Personally, I do not think they should have the ability to turn off their cameras, but sometimes they will.  And when that happens, there is a period of time that elapses where we don’t know what happened.  So, if you have your own footage, it is extremely helpful. I have apps that are ready on my phone. I am ready to hit the record button at all times. I also recommend that people get a dash camera in their vehicle. This can be extremely helpful.  It is something that you can protect, preserve and turn over to your defense attorney and your defense team. We review those recordings regularly.

And if we find that it is helpful, we can turn it over to the prosecutor’s office or use it in sentencing. Or just use it for our defense in general as we are progressing through the case since it can show a lot more. It is much more one-sided when you do not have your own video and you are relying solely on the government’s testimony. But if we have that tangible data, that tangible video it can be immensely powerful. It can tell an entirely different story.   

So, if you have already been charged with a crime, perhaps you have some recordings. Make sure you give us a call. It is very valuable. We would love to speak with you. We offer free case evaluations where we will have you come into our office.  Then we can review some of your footage, answer your questions and make sure that you have a plan in place to make this all go away! Give us a call. You literally have nothing to lose. We look forward to speaking with you soon.