Whenever you see a DUI arrest documented on one of the police television police shows, there is always a videotape of the driving, the field sobriety tests, and other parts of the processing. Sometimes, the video also includes the actual breath test. People expect that DUI arrests will be recorded.
Most people are shocked to learn that in Washington State the majority of DUI arrests are not videotaped. A few police agencies do routinely videotape all of their encounters, but videotape is the exception and not the rule. Some jurisdictions, such as the Bellevue police department, used video for a period of time and then discontinued it. During the time that the Bellevue police department did record DUI arrests, some of those videos actually supported defense motions to suppress for lack of probable cause to detain or arrest. Other videotapes clearly supported the prosecution’s case. All of the videotapes were independent evidence regarding what happened out on the street. Without videotape, in many cases what happened out on the street becomes a contest of “he said/she said,”with the citizen at a distinct disadvantage.
In some cases, it is possible to obtain videotape of part of the DUI processing. For instance, in several local jail facilities, (Issaquah, Kirkland, Renton, Seattle and others) there are security – surveillance cameras installed where the breath test machine is located. Some of these jurisdictions also record audio, others are simply “silent movies.”
In some states, legislation has been proposed to require videotaping of all DUI arrests. There has been no such move here in Washington State. Instead, we are left with a patchwork of jurisdictions with varying policies. Most citizens would likely welcome the existence of such cameras as an independent record of police contact, both to protect the police and citizens.