No More Tampa DUI Video of Breath Testing

It was great while it lasted.

In almost all DUI cases for Hillsborough County, we were able to obtain through a public record request a video tape showing everything that happened from the moment our client entered central breath testing at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, during the 20 minute observation period before they took the breath test, during the breath test, and during the short time after the breath test before they were taken out of the room.

The security cameras captured everything. And the software that allowed you to view the videotape also allowed you to zoom in or zoom out on a particular shot. You could see the individuals that used the breath test machine before and after your client. You could see the arresting officer during the entire 20 minute observation period before the test was administered.

Tampa DUI Lawyers in Hillsborough County, Florida considered these tapes to be extremely valuable because it often showed that the arresting officer was not following his obligation to watch the subject closely for 20 minutes prior to taking the breath test. Other times the video tapes showed the officers using excessive force, or failing to follow certain procedures.

The evidence on this tapes were often the main evidence used during motion hearings to exclude the breath test result or to impeach the arresting officer’s testimony. Of course, the tapes sometimes showed evidence that could be used by the prosecutor to show that the suspect was guilty of DUI, particularly if the person under arrest appeared unsteady on his feet or was abusive to jail staff. But the truth came out in each case. These tapes allowed justice to be served. The tapes could be viewed by the Prosecutor for the State Attorney’s Office or the Tampa Criminal Defense Attorney to resolve certain cases short of trial. The tapes always told the truth.

For people who took the breath test on November 5, 2009 or after, this important video tape evidence at central breath testing will no longer be available now that the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has opened the new breath testing unit. In the new unit there are no video cameras except in a special room set up for the officers to read the suspect the “implied consent warnings” in the event a suspect tells the officer that he intends to refuse to take the breath test.

The video cameras create an incentive for the arresting officer and other jail employees to follow the rules and procedures set out for processing an individual recently arrested for DUI. Without the cameras the officers may feel that they can act badly with consequence. A recent newspaper article quoted Jail Commander Col. Jim Previtera as saying: “If the public doesn’t feel that we can be trusted… that we have to have cameras in every inch of our facilities, that our deputies can’t stand in front of a court of law and raise their right hand and swear to the oath they’ve taken, then what’s that say about our society?”

It says our society trusts video tape evidence. We have all seen the misdeeds of  deputies who swear to an oath and give testimony that contradicts the video tape evidence. We should all demand that the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office reverse this decision and install security cameras in the new larger central breath testing unit.

More than 6,000 individuals are arrested for DUI in Hillsborough County, FL, each year. These cameras have gone a long way towards allowing Tampa DUI Attorneys to present a full picture to the court and the jury who might be deciding the case. Most importantly, the cameras give the officers a motivation to think carefully about their actions and try their best to follow all rules and procedures set in place.

Topics: Tampa DUI Attorney in Florida, Tampa Lawyers for DUI in Florida.

DUI Hillsborough County Sheriff Office Policy and Procedure for Central Breath Testing

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