Almost every police car in Waco - and everywhere else in Texas - is equipped with recording equipment. It is usually activated when the officer decides to stop someone and is not turned off until they arrive at the jail if an arrest is made. When an officer suspects someone of driving while intoxicated, they perform a series of tests called Field Sobriety Tests. How you perform has a lot to do with the ultimate disposition of your case.

Generally, the video is not something you have a chance to review until after charges are filed. In most jurisdictions, the video is provided as part of discovery. Some places will let you make a copy - McLennan County is one of those places - while others will only let you review them in the District or County attorney's office. Hill County is one of those places.

 I've had a lot of clients tell me they did really well on the sobriety tests. In fact, most people think they did great. The video supports some, while for many the video shows the complete opposite. After reviewing the video - or getting a description of it - the first question is usually how important it is going to be.

The fact is that the video is the most important piece of evidence in most cases. The better you perform, the better your chance of getting the case dismissed, or obtaining a not guilty verdict. Police reports in most cases read almost exactly the same. "The suspect had bloodshot eyes, and the odor of alcohol on their breath." When describing the field sobriety tests they set out everything the person did wrong - and never mention what they did right. Many times the descriptions are grossly exaggerated; when you read them you wonder how the person made it through without falling on their face. The flip side is also true - if you look really bad on the video there may not be much you can do but make the best deal you can.

There are many videos where the suspect appears to do everything well. Those are the cases where you can use the video to prove that you weren't intoxicated. It's even better when observations the officer put in the report don't show up in the video.

So what if your video is horrible? There still could be some hope. Before an officer can stop you they must have a reasonable suspicion that you've committed some offense. If they don't have that, everything that results from the stop - which would include the video - would have to be suppressed.

That's why you can't make a decision solely on the video. Instead, your lawyer must look at everything before advising you on how to proceed. Which also means you must have a lawyer who knows what to look for.

Walter Reaves
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Criminal Defense Attorney Walter Reaves has been practicing law for over 35 years.