The Ohio Supreme Court ruled earlier this week that the videos taken from police dash- cams are public records and should be released upon request. The decision by the Court was unanimous. The Court did, however, rule that certain parts of the videos could be redacted if they pertained to an ongoing investigation.
The case before the Court involved a traffic stop in Wayne County, Ohio. An officer with the Ohio State Highway Patrol (“OSHP”) received a call from dispatch relaying a civilian tip about a maroon Ford Fusion traveling south that was missing a rear license plate and driving erratically. The officer spotted the car and signaled for the driver to pull over. The driver did not pull over and a chase ensued. The chase ended when the driver of the car crashed into a guardrail. He was arrested and charged with multiple felonies. The Cincinnati Enquirer sent an email to OSHP requesting a copy of the dash-cam recordings along with several other pieces of information related to the traffic stop. Their request was denied by OSHP stating the prosecutors had asked the video not be released until all Court proceedings had ended. The reporter from the Enquirer asked the OSHP to cite a specific exception to the Public Records Act that would support their denial, and in response, the OSHP cited the exception for confidential law-enforcement investigatory records.
Ohio Supreme Court Says Dash-Cam Recordings Public Records
The Ohio Supreme Court disagreed with OSHP‘s reasoning. The Court said “dash-cam recordings fit within the definition of a “record” because they document governmental activities, decisions and operations during a traffic stop and pursuit,” and therefore, fall under the domain of the Public Records Act. However, the Court went on to say the dash-cam recordings do not meet the requirements to fall within the exception for confidential law-enforcement investigatory records, because “[t]he work product exception does not include ongoing routine offense and incident reports, including, but not limited to, records relating to a charge of driving while under the influence and records containing the results of intoxilyzer tests.” The only part of the recordings that may be withheld is the 90 second period where the officer questions the driver, because those statements could be used by the prosecutor during a trial.
Big Win For Criminal Defense Attorneys
The availability of dash-cam recordings is a big win for criminal defense attorneys and their clients. Dash-cam videos can help defend against DUI charges as well as drug possession charges as most drug charges result from a traffic stop. Watching the videos allows criminal defense attorneys to witness the events as they unfolded instead of relying on second hand information and reports.
Call Joe Edwards at 614-309-0243 if you have any questions regarding a felony or misdemeanor criminal offense.