Use of Audio & Visual Evidence in Drunk Driving Cases

Audio and visual evidence is evidence that appeals to our auditory and visual senses. In other words, it is evidence that we can see or hear. Videotapes and photographs are examples of visual evidence. A voice recording is an example of audio evidence. Audio and visual evidence is often used in drunk driving cases.

The prosecution’s ability to successfully convict a motorist for driving while under the influence of alcohol (DUI) will often depend upon the prosecutor’s ability to convince the jury that the police reports provided to the jury are accurate and that the police officers’ observations confirm that the defendant was intoxicated. Police reports are often found to be similar in DUI cases because police officers are often taught to use a standard description of DUI defendants. Common descriptors on arrest reports show that the arresting officer describes the defendant as unsteady, with bloodshot eyes and slurred speech. Arrest reports often describe unsuccessful field sobriety tests. In order to bolster the police reports and testimony, prosecutors often seek to introduce audio and visual evidence.

Many of us have seen police shows that illustrate how police vehicles often use cameras and voice recorders to provide an audio and visual account of a defendant’s behavior. However, if the defendant was not visibly intoxicated, a defense attorney will often find that the evidence does not exist. Police have chosen not to record a defendant in cases where the defendant’s behavior at arrest does not tend to show that the defendant was intoxicated. It is usually a good idea for defense counsel to record their own audio and video of a defendant as close as possible to arrest in order to rebut evidence that may be brought by the prosecution at trial.

Generally, audio and visual evidence will be admitted if it is an accurate and fair representation of what the witness observed, unless its probative value is outweighed by other considerations. There are potential problems that can occur with audio and visual evidence. One such problem with audio evidence is that inaudible portions may exist that dramatically change the meaning of a conversation. An additional concern with audio recordings is the ability to delete, add, or change the recording. Visual evidence also presents an opportunity for fabrication and distortion. The credibility of the evidence can be attacked by either party.