Friday, December 30, 2011

DUI Law - Illinois Sanctions Loss of Videotape

In People v. Kladis, 2011 IL 110920 (decided December 30, 2011) the Illinois Supreme Court affirmed a trial court ruling, barring any evidence that was contained on a videotape that was negligently erased after it had been requested by defense counsel.  The facts established that within 5 days after the defendant had been arrested for DUI (and 25 days prior to the first court date) the defense filed and hand delivered a discovery request for inter alia, any and all videotapes of the stop and arrest of the defendant.

On the first court date, the State failed to produce the tape. After confirming with the arresting officer that the incident was videotaped, the matter was continued so that the state could obtain a copy of the video for the defense. At the next court date, it was learned that the police department, pursuant to policy, had automatically purged the tape (25 days after the request was handed to the prosecutor and hours prior to the 1st court date). The trial court barred introduction of any evidence that would have been on the tape, including the driving of the car, the field sobriety tests, and the manner in which the defendant exited the vehicle.

The Supreme Court first dealt with the State's argument that the video was not 'discoverable' because discovery for misdemeanors is extremely limited, and videotapes were not included on the list of things that a defendant can seek in a misdemeanor DUI, based on an old 1974 decision on discovery. The Supreme Court in the instant case stated that the 1974 decision was merely a review of the status of custom and practice at that time, and was not intended to remain static, nor was it intended to "not take into account the fundamental changes which have occurred in law or society since that ruling."

"In sum, we conclude that the routine video recording of traffic stops has now become an integral part of those encounters, objectively documenting what takes place by capturing the conduct and the words of both parties." The Suprem Court therefore held that videotapes were discoverable.

In terms of the propriety of the sanctions incurred for failing to comply with discovery, the court found the sanctions proportionate to the violation. "Here, the court properly exercised its discretion in choosing from the spectrum of available options and narrowly tailoring its sanction to bar the State from introducing testimony regarding what was contained in the video recording."

Congratulations go out to Attorney Ed Maloney, partner to new NCDD member Thomas Moran.

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