In 2014, only 5% of Houston Police Department (HPD) vehicles had dashboard cameras. In fact, Houston had the worst record of all large cities in the Lone Star state. Activists have been calling for the installation of more cameras as a way of reducing police misconduct. By 2023, the number had increased to a measly 15%. HPD was still claiming they couldn’t find the money to add more.
Times have changed, apparently. Recently, HPD announced that they had received $2 million for the installation of cameras for 143 vehicles. HPD has roughly 1,400 squad cars and an additional 1,800 unmarked vehicles. Each camera unit costs about $15,000. We anticipate them being used by this summer or early fall.
Defendants might benefit from these cameras—and some might not. Please call our Houston criminal defense attorney to talk about any charges you are facing. Tas Nelson can explain what evidence might be useful for your defense and how dashboard camera footage might impact your case. Our office can then immediately begin working toward a favorable result.
Why Do Activists Like Dashboard Cameras?
It’s easy to understand why they want them. The camera will record whatever is happening in front of the vehicle, including any confrontation between a suspect and a police officer. For example, the police might aggressively tackle a defendant and continue to punch or kick him while he is on the ground. The dashboard camera can catch that, which makes seeking accountability for excessive force much easier.
Also, activists are skeptical whenever police use lethal force because many officers claim the suspect was reaching for a weapon. The camera footage might show the officer is lying.
The hope is that officers will improve their professionalism if they know they are being recorded. This should lower the number of excessive force claims and improve relations between the police department and community. Or at least that’s the theory.
Will Dashboard Camera Footage Help Your Case?
It might. It could also hurt your case. We imagine dashcam footage will play a key role in Houston DWI cases. For example, if an officer suspects you are drunk, he will ask you to participate in field sobriety tests, such as standing on one leg or walking in a straight line. The officer then might conclude that you appear to lack coordination and are drunk.
However, the dashboard footage will exist, so jurors can make up their own mind about whether you looked intoxicated. The images on the video might paint a very different picture than the officer’s conclusions.
In other cases, you might really be stumbling around for various reasons, such as fatigue or nervousness. But a picture is worth a thousand words, and the jury might use that evidence to help convict you.
Your Statements & Dashboard Cameras
We think these cameras will play a role whenever a person is arrested and handcuffed. If you make an incriminating statement, the prosecution will probably seek to introduce it against you. Shouting something like, “I didn’t mean to do it!” sounds incriminating, and a jury can consider these statements as proof of guilt. Any resistance to arrest also makes you look guilty.
For this reason, we strongly recommend that people not speak at all when stopped by the police. Although you need to identify yourself, you don’t need to answer any additional questions. Once a camera records your statement, it’s much harder to cast doubt on what you really said.
Can You Record a Police Encounter?
You can. Citizens have a First Amendment right to record an interaction with the police. That means you can whip out your smartphone and record the officer.
Nonetheless, you need to realize this right is not unlimited. You can’t interfere with the officer’s duties, which means you can’t step in front of him to get a better angle for your video. You also can’t create a scene that might jeopardize the officer’s safety. If you do, you can face charges for interference with public duties under Texas Penal Code § 38.15 on top of any DWI or other charges.
Contact Tad Nelson & His Team about Your Case
Thanks to our experience, we understand how to find evidence that proves your innocence. More than ever, dashcam footage might provide critical pieces of evidence to cast doubt on your stop or arrest. Please call our law firm to secure the help of one of the most seasoned criminal defense lawyers in Houston. Tad Nelson handles all misdemeanor and felony charges.