Whenever you see a DUI arrest documented on one of the police television police shows, there is always a videotape of the driving, the field sobriety tests, and other parts of the processing. Sometimes, the video also includes the actual breath test. People expect that DUI arrests will be recorded.

Most people are shocked, however, to learn that the majority of DUI arrests in Washington State are not videotaped. A few police agencies, such as the Seattle police DUI squad, routinely videotape, but videotape is the exception and not the rule. Some jurisdictions, such as the Bellevue police department, used videotape for a period of time and then discontinued it. During the time that the Bellevue police department did videotape DUI arrests, some of those videotapes actually supported defense motions to suppress for lack of probable cause to detain or arrest. Other videotapes clearly supported the prosecution’s case. All of the videotapes were independent evidence regarding what happened out on the street. Therefore, the videotape acted as an independent, unbiased, observer. Without videotape, in many cases what happened out on the street becomes a contest of “he said/she said,”with the citizen at a distinct disadvantage.

In some cases, it is possible to obtain videotape of part of the DUI processing. For instance, in several local jail facilities, (Issaquah, Kirkland, and others) there are security – surveillance cameras installed where the breath test machine is located. Some of these jurisdictions also record audio, others are simply “silent movies.” A good DUI defense attorney will know when and how to request videotape evidence that may be useful in the defense of someone accused of DUI.

In some states, legislation has been proposed to require videotaping of all DUI arrests. There has been no such move here in Washington State. The city of San Jose, California, it is conducting an interesting experiment with head-mounted cameras to permit all contact with civilians to be monitored. Most citizens would likely welcome the existence of such cameras as an independent record of police contact.