Last month, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled in State v. Merriman that it would be fundamentally unfair for a person charged with DUI to stand trial when the police lost the video recording of that person’s DUI traffic stop. The court based its ruling on the application of State v. Ferguson, which is the precedent for all destruction of evidence cases in Tennessee.
The court held in Merriman that the State had a duty to preserve the video recording and that such video could have contained exculpatory evidence. The court concluded that the state was negligent in not preserving it and found that the loss of such evidence was significant.
It’s not common for DUI videos to be lost. However, in 2010,approximately 1600 traffic stop videos were lost as a result of a software update at the Metro Nashville Police Department. That number included many DUI arrests that could potentially fall under the Supreme Court’s new ruling.
How the New DUI Video Law May Affect Your Case
Once you have hired an attorney for your DUI case, you should immediately seek to determine whether a DUI arrest video exists. Not every police car is equipped with a video camera, but most trained DUI enforcement officers do have video equipment. In many cases, a criminal defense attorney can get the video in advance of the first court date, which will help you to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your case from the beginning. If the video has gone missing, it might just be your lucky day.
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