Should I Buy a Dashcam?
Northern Virginia Criminal Attorney and Fairfax DUI Lawyer Shares Thoughts
Dash cams are nothing new. HD cameras meant to record through your windshield are too expensive for the average driver, right? Wrong. You would be surprised. Today, our Fairfax criminal attorney and DUI lawyer provides a realistic example of just how important having a dash cam can be. And I only cover the criminal and traffic law perspective; dash cams are used around the world as a means to prevent or mitigate insurance fraud (accident and injury schemes), police abuse, and other defensive purposes.
One Set of FactsTwo Drastically Different Outcomes
Consider this scenario:
You were driving home from a restaurant where you consumed an entree, a glass of water, a 12 oz. beer, piece of cake, and a small glass of dessert wine. About 3 miles from your destination, a small deer darted to the edge of the roadside, made eye contact, then tore off. During the process, you slammed your brakes, went 50 to 25 in less than a second, but did not cause an accident. You quickly regained your speed to match the flow of traffic.
Read what our local Fairfax DUI lawyer and Virginia DWI attorney considers the true cost of a DUI conviction
Unfortunately, a police officer witnessed your seemingly strange driving behavior and pulled you over. Instead of saying a word about what happened, the officer smiled and asked where you were headed. You blurted out how you were on the way home from the best date of the year, and you could not recommend the movie more. “This officer will relate to me,” you thought to yourself. Naturally, this came next:
Sir, have you had anything to drink tonight?
Nervously, you said, “one beer.” Without hesitation, the officer suggested a few easy field sobriety tests. He told you you had a choice, but that it was something any sober person could handle just fine.
maybe the officer isn’t so bad and is just doing his job. He’ll realize I am sober.
You did your best to listen, but it was rush hour and the nearby traffic made it impossible to hear. After the tests, there was a brief 15 second moment when you reflected on what just happened:
standing on one leg, you put a leg down once (there was a wind gust);
the officer said to count starting at 25, but you thought he said 29;
when giving instructions, the officer cut you off, and said he had not finished.
You didn’t pass, and were placed in handcuffs, driven to the station, booked, and ultimately very embarrassed by the time you got home 12 hours later. You have a court date, and are afraid of losing your job, going to jail, and the financial implications of losing your privilege to drive. What are your chances? You know that it is important to talk to one of the many great Fairfax DUI Lawyers and Virginia criminal attorneys. Before consulting with any Virginia criminal defense lawyer, however, you brag to a friend how you are positive the footage will show this officer did not have probable cause to arrest you.
Read about the mandatory jail time for Virginia DUI offenses
Outcome 1: No Video Exists
Surely, every police cruiser has a camera that records everything, right? And plus, you were arrested in an affluent county. You talked to a few attorneys, and they all agreed with you: the footage would be great to obtain. The only problem? Most of the cruisers from that department are not equipped with cameras.
You went to court and your lawyer explained to you that your best chance was to challenge the sobriety tests, because according to her, the police report mentions errors you made when taking the sobriety tests, but in her experience, there is some room for reasonable doubt. You went to trial and lost. You are sure that if the judge could go back in time and be a fly on the wall that day, that he would have dismissed the case. You now have a DWI on your record, a suspended jail sentence, hefty fine, and you have no valid license. If only the police cruiser had a surveillance camera. If only you could have done something…
Looking for specifics or a broad overview of Virginia DUI laws? View the main Virginia DUI Defense page
Outcome 2: Video Exists
Just a week before your arrest for DWI, you installed a dash-cam in your vehicle.
You are one of the few people who realizes the importance of a dash camera. You wisely looked into the prices just last month, and due the small price tags you found online, you decided to order one. For $40, you hoped it would be worth the cost.
After the events of this evening (the DWI arrest), you confidently met with your local Fairfax DUI Lawyer to review the tape. Fortunately, the camera you have has an audio feature, and everything you said as well as everything the officer said was clearly audible.
At court, your lawyer stood up and said to the judge,
your honor, motion to suppress, lack of probable cause
Your local Fairfax DWI and Criminal Lawyer cited a Constitutional Amendment and a Supreme Court Case. During the next several minutes, various arguments were made, questions were asked, but the case was won after the judge saw the video. The judge watched the video, and realized that:
- as you put your foot down, the background shows that the trees were swaying.
- the officer said twenty five, but no fewer than 20 cars passed during the 20 seconds the officer was reading.
- the officer paused for an unusually long time when the mistake was made and you accidentally started performing the test prematurely.
Based on the evidence and the inferences drawn from the video, the judge found that because there was not probable cause from a reasonable officer’s point of view under a totality of the circumstances, that the case must be dismissed.
What does probable cause mean, anyway? Find out.
The video saved you thousands of dollars, possible jail time, a conviction on your record, and much grief and hardship.
If our Fairfax criminal attorney and Northern Virginia DWI lawyer can install a daschcam, you probably can, too
Years ago, a dashboard cameras in private vehicles were uncommon. They were very expensive, and required a working knowledge of car electronics and wiring. Today, units can be purchased for as cheap as $30 (sometimes a little less). I would not recommend the cheapest dash-cam you can find, but if all you can afford is the lowest-end model, it sure is better than nothing.
Check the specs. Sometimes, dashcams look alike but have very different features. It is a good idea to find a camera that automatically turns on and turns off, depending on when the vehicle is in motion…but be sure to also confirm that there is an override function to allow you to turn camera on (or to leave it running) in the event you are asked to step out of the vehicle.
If you have been accused of a crime in Northern Virginia, there are several guidelines I can offer you as a Fairfax criminal defense attorney and Virginia DWI lawyer:
DO hire a lawyer you trust already, or if you do not know one, begin the process of meeting with several as soon as you can do so. The more time your attorney has to work on your case, the better.
DO ask any prospective lawyer what percentage of his/her practice involves criminal and traffic law matters (defense).
DO ask if there are any testimonials or similar cases the attorney would be willing to briefly summarize.
DO NOT expect a lawyer to read your mind and know exactly what your questions are without asking.
DO NOT forget to tell your lawyer everything, because if you leave something out, it may come up at trial and surprise your lawyer. This could seriously impact your chances of a successful court result.
DO NOT forget that no attorney can guarantee results, but any good attorney can give you an idea of the basic probabilities (in his professional opinion) as far as possible outcomes given his or her experience.
You can request a telephone consultation, online case evaluation, or an in-person office consultation. Vincenzes Law, PLLC, is a Northern Virginia criminal defense law firm with its headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia. Call 703.665.3719 or 888.695.6565.
If you have to appear before the Fairfax County Traffic Court (General District Court), here is a helpful page with information about the courthouse, its policies, directions among other things. We serve all Northern Virginia jurisdictions (for a near-complete list, see our locations-served section). For a frequently asked questions section covering Virginia bail bonds and what you should know if you or a loved one has been arrested, read our bail bonds and Northern Virginia detention center facilities list here.
*Disclaimer: nothing on this page is legal advice, and nothing on this page is meant to endorse or advertise a product. The cameras shown on this page merely depict randomly selected dashboard cameras on the market.
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