Body Cameras Help the Defense

Fredericksburg has now had body cameras for almost two years and Spotsylvania Sheriff’s Office is currently testing them. Have they been good or bad for citizens like you and me?

Taser caught on camera

One of the most public Taser incidents occurred last May when former Fredericksburg Police Officer Jergens deployed his Taser on a person who was stopped in traffic. As a result of that incident and the body cam footage, Officer Jergens resigned from the Fredericksburg Police Department. (Read the news article here.)

This Tasering incident showed the person stopped in traffic, and he simply would not respond to police commands. Several officers responded, asking him to show his hands and put his hands in the air, so they could see that he did not have a weapon, and his left hand remained hidden behind the door frame and under the steering wheel. Officer Jergens, as seen on the body cam footage, goes around another officer and deploys his Taser into the man’s chest. They end up getting the man out of the vehicle and subduing him on the ground.

Unfortunately, after everything was investigated, it turns out the man was having a stroke, and likely that’s why he was not responding to police commands in the first place.

I’m not sure if the victim has sued anyone over this incident. However, it cannot be disputed that the body cam footage proved vital in figuring out what exactly happened in that situation. If there is a lawsuit, it will certainly nail down the facts of what happened.

Marijuana mistakes on tape!

When an officer does a field test of suspected marijuana, they are supposed to follow the instructions on the field test kit. The instructions include how you put the marijuana into the little kit, how you break the ampoules, the different time between breaking ampoules, and how long you’re supposed to shake it.

Before body cameras, we were not able to see how this exactly went down. It was usually done on the side of the road and there was no video of how the actual test was performed, so we had to solely rely on the officer’s word that he performed the test correctly.

With body cameras there are many cases where we can actually see the test being done, and see if the officers actually follow the instructions properly. In some cases, the officers have done the field test incorrectly.

In one of my cases, I watched the body camera video, and the officer clearly raised up his wrist and timed the field test using his watch as he counted the seconds by to demonstrate that he was doing it properly. In that case we couldn’t challenge anything with the field test, but at least we knew that the test was done according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The body camera videos have encouraged police accountability.

Do you look drunk?

In one of my cases for a recent drunk charge of drunk in public for a client the body cam footage proved essential in researching how the client actually looked on the night in question.

For a drunk in public case, the question is really whether or not alcohol was affecting the person’s, speech, manner, or disposition. Do they LOOK drunk? What better evidence is there to prove or disprove that issue than actual video from the day in question?

In this particular case, the case was resolved due to other issues in the case. However, the body cam footage was a vital research tool for us to investigate how strong the Commonwealth’s case was against my client. It helped us see what arguments we could make to fight this misdemeanor charge.

Overall, body cameras are a great asset that encourage police accountability.

Photo by: Surveillance: America’s Pastime

Andrew Flusche

My name is Andrew Flusche. I am a traffic and misdemeanor defense lawyer in Virginia. I limit my practice to traffic tickets and misdemeanor defense, so I know the ins and outs of these offenses. I literally wrote the book on reckless driving in Virginia which you can get on Amazon here or download for free here. I opened my practice in 2008 after earning my Juris Doctor degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. Since then, I have earned over 600 5-star reviews from happy clients on Google, Yelp, and Facebook. If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor offense in Virginia, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Your initial consultation is always free, and you'll talk directly with me about the details of your case.

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