DWI News: Dash-mounted Cameras May be the Norm in New Jersey Police Vehicles

Never desirable, abuse of power by any public official can result in various outcomes, most all of which are far from acceptable. For the average citizen, it is expected that the law and those who are sworn to uphold are there to protect the rights of the individual. But when the law is subverted by a person in a position of authority, such as an elected official or a police officer, action should be taken to correct the situation for those harmed, and to protect those who may be in the future. Sometimes an abuse of power is so significant, or rampant, that lawmakers are spurred to action to help prevent future abuses of power by unscrupulous individuals.

As New Jersey drunken driving defense attorneys, the legal team at my firm is dedicated to assisting motorists accused of drunken driving, and to fight against charges of DWI, drug DUI and other related offenses. As part of our job, we investigate all possible evidence both supporting our clients’ cases as well as those that benefit the prosecution. By understanding the totality of the charges and the evidence against a defendant, our lawyers can tailor their defense accordingly.

In many parts of the country, police departments have been employing dashboard-mounted video cameras to record traffic stops and possible drunken driving arrests, among other types of police activities. Here in the Garden State, law enforcement agencies have not been legally required to have dash-mounted cameras installed in police vehicles, but this may be changing.

As anyone can understand, having a video (and audio) record of a police stop can be beneficial to a defendant’s case when a police officer — knowingly or not — exceeds his authority or makes an arrest based on questionable grounds. A 2012 drunken driving case involving New Jersey Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, as well as instances of other legislators being stopped and arrested for DWI illustrate the overall benefits of having an “unbiased” electronic observer on the scene of most any traffic stop.

According to news articles, this state is one step closer to having dash-mounted cameras in police cars now that the state Assembly has passed a bill requiring these devices in most police vehicles. The effort was brought about after concerns were voiced that the public may need to be protected from false accusations by the police, as well as to back up patrolmen when faced with frivolous complaints. The legislation — A4193 — was approved last week one a 48 to 26 vote; identical legislation is pending in the state Senate.

Under the proposed law, all new, used or leased police vehicles used primarily for traffic enforcement will be required to have a camera installed. It should be mentioned that this law will affect municipal police vehicles as the New Jersey State Police already have dash cams mounted in all of its vehicles. The bill passed the NJ Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on January 6, leaving a vote in the full Senate before it could become law.

What this could mean in the future for individuals accused of drunken driving should be obvious. High-profile DWI cases like that of Assemblyman Moriarty’s 2012 DWI arrest are likely just the tip of a larger iceberg, which means that the average motorist may benefit from the added oversight that dash-mounted cameras provide for everyone involved in a routine traffic stop.

In Mr. Moriarty’s drunk driving case, all charges against him were eventually dropped after law enforcement officials reviewed video footage from the dashboard camera mounted in the arresting officer’s patrol car. In that particular episode, the officer in charge was suspended without pay from the Washington Twp. PD, while also facing numerous criminal charges related to falsifying information regarding that traffic stop.

Without the corroboration provided by the dashboard camera, there is no telling how Mr. Moriarty’s DWI case may have ended up. As the assemblyman recently stated, “I now want to make sure everyone in New Jersey eventually gets that same benefit and ability to protect their rights.”

In-car cameras may be required in N.J. patrol cars, CourierPostOnline.com, January 6, 2014
New Jersey, New Hampshire bills would outfit police, cars with cameras; LandlineMag.com; January 7, 2014