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New Jersey DWI Mobile Video Recording Law

On March 1, 2015, a new law went into effect which requires all municipal police vehicles hereafter purchased to be equipped with mobile video recording systems. This requirement applies to police vehicles primarily used in traffic stops and was signed into law in September of 2014. Laws of 2014, c. 54. The law was originally introduced as legislative bill A-2280. The Attorney General is also required to develop rules and regulations as to the specifics of the devices.

The recordation requirement is another indication of the Legislature and courts in New Jersey intending to require police not only to preserve evidence which already exists, but also to create evidence which would be objective as to guilt or innocence. In State v. Gordon, 261 N.J. Super. 462 (App. Div. 1993), the court held that the police do not have a duty to video DWI defendants or to “create evidence”. However, as a matter of policy and practice, in 2006 the Attorney General of New Jersey directed that all statements and confessions in first through third degree crimes be recorded by law enforcement. AG Dir. 2006-02. In State v. W.B., 205 N.J. 588 (2011), the State Supreme Court held that police must retain and disclose notes written at the time of their observations, as opposed to discarding them after the final police report was written and typed. Failure to preserve such notes is a Sixth Amendment Right to Confrontation violation. The Attorney General of New Jersey subsequently issued Directive 2011-2 which requires the retention and transmission of all contemporaneous law enforcement notes of witness interviews and crime scenes.

As technology advances, the ability to create objective electronic recordation of events becomes easier and less costly. At the same time, recent events in New Jersey and elsewhere in the nation, point to the need for and value of recordings to determine the truth when law enforcement action is involved. Many have called for police body cameras for all officers in accordance with this trend. Neighboring New York has instituted a body-camera pilot program.

In DWI cases, the stop of the motor vehicle and the observations of the officer, including field sobriety tests, can be crucial to the defense. Objective recorded evidence allows the DWI defense attorney to use the video to challenge the officer’s observations and conclusions.

Steven W. Hernandez is a New Jersey DWI lawyer who specializes in DWI defense. He is the Chair-Elect of the New Jersey State Bar Municipal Court Practice Section and a Sustaining Member
in the National College for DUI Defense and a Founding member of the DUI Defense Lawyers Association. He currently holds the highest ranking of 10/10 on AVVO for DWI defense.