The supreme court of the State of Illinois sanctioned the state and barred it from introducing testimony concerning what was contained on a video of a traffic stop in Illinois v. Kladis, (No. 110920, Dec. 2011).
Traffic stops, detention and field sobriety tests for those suspected of drinking and driving while generally be recorded on video if the stop was made by Lafayette Police Department ATAC units and Louisiana State Police. Under the laws of evidence, the state must produce the video if demanded by the defendant’s attorney. Kladisaddresses the situation when a video demanded is ultimately destroyed and unavailable for the defendant.
Though rare, it does happen that local law enforcement fails to preserve video evidence. Usually, the excuse is a “corrupted video”.
We have been involved in the production of video evidence from computer hard drive from police units. The issue of production of video information was in litigation for many months in St. Martin parish. Our trial judge ordered the production of video information as a protection of Fourth Amendment rights.
While Louisiana appellate courts have not dealt with the issue of failure to preserve video recordings, the court inKladis reached a decision which would be hard to ignore by our courts. The use of video evidence to present an effective defense and enable the truth-seeking process has long been honored throughout the nation. It clearly serves as the best evidence of what occurred on the date and time of the incident. There should be no logical reason why in should not be preserved and made available for the accused to assist him in his defense.
So yes, video is important. In many cases it is the most critical piece of evidence for your defense. If it is available, we obtain it. If it is not, we make sure that there is legal justification for not having it.