Erased Evidence Allowing Drunk Drivers To Go Free
We all know the devastating effects excessive alcohol can have on memory. And while those arrested for crimes like drunk driving may not even be able to recall the condition they were in when apprehended, police can usually set the record straight through video evidence. But what happens when that evidence is erased? Defence lawyer Peter Lindsay says he has the answer.
Lindsay claims dozens or even hundreds of suspects accused of driving under the influence have been set free, all because someone erased the evidence of an individual’s impairment.
And he believes there could potentially be hundreds more that got a free pass because of the practice.
Police security video can be a crucial piece of evidence both for prosecuting an impaired driving charge, and defending one. But Lindsay accuses York Regional Police of wiping out the evidence before he can view it, and according to the attorney, that botches the case.
Lindsay says if he doesn’t get the tape, it’s a violation of a defendant’s charter rights and he regularly gets charges tossed out because of it.
“If it has relevant evidence or could have relevant evidence on it, then I should be entitled to it to properly defend someone,” he argues.
York Regional Police chief Armand La Barge says he’s only aware of one case that was thrown out of court because of erased videotape evidence.
“I’m completely unaware of dozens or hundreds of cases,” he fires back.
La Barge admits that videotapes used to be erased after 60 days but recently they’ve moved to digital equipment, meaning images can be stored indefinitely.
But Lindsay insists it’s still happening, and some judges concur. “Time and time again this court has directed that this (60 day) retention period be discontinued and that the tapes should not be destroyed, yet the policy remains in place,” notes Justice A.M. Shaw.
The Chief’s response? “I’m recognizing that we’re engaged in a war against impaired driving here and we want to make sure that when we charge somebody with impaired driving, we’ve done everything to see that charge through to conviction.”
York Regional Police say they hope to have the new digital system fully operational by next month.