Interviewer: I always see in the movies and on TV that maybe the police will go to the scene. Do you go to the scene often to make notes and observations?
Steve: Yes, I would say 75% of the time I go out with the client to the scene. It just depends on what the issues are. I think it is an important point knowing the location where all this happened.
If you are an attorney just sitting at your desk, you are going to be at a disadvantage if the case proceeds to some form of litigation. Whether it is the DMV or the criminal courts, everyone else is going to know what the area looked like except the lawyers.
Quite frankly, it is interesting. If you basically apply that to the criminal case, I would say 99% of the time the district attorney has not been to the scene. They do not have an idea what things look like.
I think it is important, if you are defending or doing a case, you should know. Sometimes they go. I have tried cases with particular DA’s that actually, when the trial started, went out to the scene to take a look. They did this because they knew I was there.
Interviewer: Do police have in-car cameras? Can you see the scene if you subpoena those records?
Steve: Yes, you can.
Interviewer: Can you film the scene yourself and enter that as evidence?
Steve: Before we get to the issues litigated or decided at the DMV, at the administrative hearing out of the department, you have to prepare for those hearings. I generally go ahead and send out subpoenas for evidence that tends to exonerate the client.
We do not know on an individual, case by case basis whether an officer’s patrol vehicle is equipped with a video device. We do not even know whether they have audio capabilities to record what happened during contact with the client.
However, we always subpoena the tapes, video or audio tapes. We review and compare them with the allegations contained in the police reports, the officer’s statements.
Obviously, that is important for a couple reasons. One, if there was some type of on-board video camera, you want to take a look at what the film or video tape shows. You want to see if that is consistent with the factual allegations stated by the officer in the report.
Obviously, it is always helpful if it does not. Although, there are ways to get around that for district attorneys and judges, if they are so inclined. They can just say, “Well, no, it was not recording everything. We did not turn it on until a certain point. Everything I just stated on the stand basically happened before this went on.”
So you never know really what you are going to be up against. However, you always send subpoenas out for evidence that tends to explicate or exonerate the client in these proceedings.
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