Friday, July 25, 2014

Talking In The Police Car Can Get You In (More) Trouble

Most people realize from watching TV shows that police cars contain a dash camera and that the officer carries a microphone on his person. What is captured by these devices is often used by the prosecutor as Exhibit 1 at trial. What most people do not realize, however, is that the police car contains equipment to record what you say and do after you are arrested.

As a criminal defense attorney, I never want to think that I have a great defense, only to learn in the middle of trial that my client said or did something on camera during their arrest that greatly increases the chance of a guilty verdict. Therefore, any lawyer worth his or her salt will carefully review the entire video of the stop as soon as possible.
This happened recently with a client who was arrested for possession of one-half kilos of cocaine and almost a pound of marijuana. The drugs were found in a back-pack on the back seat of his car following a traffic stop. His defense was that he had no idea that the drugs were there and that he had been “set up” by some people who had been in the car with him earlier that day. This is a very serious felony drug charge and my client was facing up to ten years in prison. However, he was very adamant about his defense.
Because I practice criminal defense in Baton Rouge, which is on the I-10 interstate, I represent a lot of clients who are charged with possession of drugs following a traffic stop. The video of their arrest often contains valuable information regarding the reasons for the stop (or lack of, as is sometimes the case), as well as other important information that I can use to get the evidence thrown out or “suppressed”. Therefore, I thoroughly review the video on all new cases ASAP.

Sometimes, however, the video contains information that is potentially harmful to my client’s defense. That happened in a recent case I handled. After my client was handcuffed and placed into the rear of the police unit, the officer left him alone to go inventory and weigh the drugs that had been seized. As soon as the police officer shut the door, my client, not realizing he was being recorded, began talking to himself.  Incredibly, this is what he said:

Going to jail.  This is one of the stupidest things I’ve did. Shoulda got the coke outta there.

Obviously, this statement strongly indicates my client knew the drugs were in the car and that he had not been “set up” as claimed. Luckily, I caught this statement early on by reviewing the video thoroughly. If I had gone to trial with my clients story, he surely would have been convicted and sentenced to a lengthy prison sentence for this serious felony drug crime. Instead, I quickly went to the Assistant District Attorney and sought a plea bargain and was offered probation for my client. Why would the prosecutor agree to give my client probation when he had these incriminating statements? The answer is simple: he had not yet reviewed the video. Because the case was still relatively new the prosecutor simply had not gotten around to looking at the video. If he had he would have heard the statement and not been so generous. This was a major save.

If you are arrested for possession of drugs or for any serious felony crime, call Baton Rouge Criminal Defense Attorney Rhett Spano now at (225) 387-8327. Or you email me a question at rspano1@gmail.com.  Also, be sure to visit my website at http://www.rhettspanolaw.com for additional information regarding selecting a criminal defense attorney.