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You Have a Right to Watch the Arrest Video at Trial

Posted by Steven H. Fagan | May 06, 2020 | 0 Comments

Judge: "We're going to watch your arrest video in back, okay?"

You've been through the wringer in a criminal or DUI case in an Illinois courtroom. A dozen or more court dates have flown by in what seems both absurdly slow and fast enough to make you feel dizzy. Pre-trial motions have been heard where your attorney has tried to limit the evidence against you and tried to get the case thrown out of court.

And now it all comes down to the moment of truth (you hope) - the trial. 

Illinois criminal dui arrest video

An imposing, seemingly all-powerful judge is sitting on the elevated "bench" staring down at you. The prosecutor is standing sternly to one side with an intense "I'm gonna get him" scowl. The courtroom deputies assume an authoritative posture just off and a little behind you - you know, just so you can feel their presence and know not to pull anything funny.

Your attorney is standing between you and them, hopefully standing ready to throw himself in the way of any incoming projectiles thrown from the eyes of any of these people focussed on what they're going to do with you next. 

And then the Judge says "we're all going to go in back to watch the video now, because we're having a problem watching the video here in the courtroom... not you though, just me your attorney and prosecutor, you understand?" 

What are you going to say? The Judge in charge of the next phase of your life has just asked if you understand. Not if you agree. Not if you're okay with this. He didn't even say "you have a right to watch the video with us". 

But You Do Have a Right to Watch the Arrest Video in Court.

You have the right to say "Judge, I want to see the evidence against me" - even if you've seen the video 17 times in your attorney's office and strained your relationship with your attorney by about the 16th viewing even though you brought popcorn for everyone to his office. 

Now, you can waive the right to review the video. You can let the Judge go into a back room with your lawyer and the prosecutor to watch that video - and if your lawyer thinks that's an acceptable move (and it may very well be), you can and should discuss with your attorney whether you have any objections. Then you make a clear and informed decision free of the intimidation inherent in the situation.

Your Personal Legal Defense "Bodyguard"

That's one of the things your criminal or DUI defense attorney, or your personal warrior and legal bodyguard, is there to help you do - make a sober and informed decision about how, when and whether to exercise or waive your rights. Because all that intimidation built into the court process needs to be brushed out of the way, put into a corner and nullified. You have the right to look, one last time, so that you can point out to your lawyer anything you see or notice that you haven't seen or noticed the first 17 times. Or to decide you've seen enough. You can waive the right to watch that video in court if you want, but that decision should be based on a clear understanding of that right.

It's really up to you. 

About the Author

Steven H. Fagan

Steve Fagan earned his law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law, is a member of the NCDD, NACDL, ISBA and a founding member of the DUIDLA. He is published and has taught CLE for lawyers on subjects such as sex offenses, DUI and criminal defense, focuses on trial work and Real Estate closings


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