New Jersey Law Enforcement Patrol Vehicles Required to Have Video Cameras Under New Law, Funds to Come from New DWI Surcharges

By Fernost (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsPolice patrol cars in New Jersey must be equipped with video cameras under a new law passed by the New Jersey Legislature and signed by the Governor in September 2014. The law takes effect during a time when police accountability is a topic of national interest. Video cameras, either worn by the police officer or mounted in the police vehicle, are often proposed as a means of curbing civil rights abuses. The original sponsor of the bill, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, was the subject of a traffic stop and an arrest for alleged DWI in 2012. Video footage from a camera in the officer’s car differed significantly from the officer’s report of the stop and ultimately exonerated Moriarty.

Moriarty was arrested on July 31, 2012 in Washington Township, New Jersey after a traffic stop. The officer who pulled Moriarty over claimed that Moriarty cut him off after making an illegal lane change. Moriarty refused to submit to a breath test, resulting in a criminal charge of refusal as well as DWI. Video of the stop, taken from a dashboard camera in the officer’s vehicle, reportedly contradicted the officer’s account of the stop. The prosecutor dismissed the charges against Moriarty in May 2013 after concluding that evidence obtained from the stop would be inadmissible.

The officer faced multiple criminal charges in the aftermath of the arrest, including perjury, official misconduct, and tampering with public records. Moriarty filed at least two civil suits in connection with the incident: a defamation suit against a car dealership for allegedly false statements by employees that led to the traffic stop, and a civil rights claim against the police department and the arresting officer. Being a New Jersey Assemblyman, Moriarty also took steps to make the type of evidence that exonerated him available to every DWI defendant.

Moriarty introduced the bill as A2280 in February 2014. The Assembly passed it in May, followed by the Senate in June. Governor Christie signed it into law on September 10, 2014. The final law, P.L. 2014, c. 54, applies to all vehicles “purchased, leased, or otherwise acquired” by police departments, both new and used, after the law’s effective date that are “primarily used for traffic stops.” This seems to indicate that the law does not apply to vehicles that police departments already have in use, but that issue may be addressed as the law is implemented. It requires all vehicles to have a “mobile video recording system,” defined as a device or system that makes an electronic video recording of “activities that take place during a motor vehicle stop or other law enforcement action.” The device may be worn by an officer or installed in the vehicle.

The law amends subsection (i) of the DWI statute to increase the surcharge assessed in all DWI cases from $100 to $125. Currently, the $100 surcharge is split evenly between the municipality in which the conviction occurred and the state’s General Fund. The additional $25 will go to the municipality or county that issued the defendant’s summons to pay for video recording equipment.

A DWI arrest in New Jersey can have a substantial impact on your life, even if you are never charged with or convicted of an offense. A knowledgeable and experienced DWI attorney can help you understand your rights and plan the best possible defense for you. At Levow & Associates, we have dedicated 100% of our law practice to advocating for the rights of DWI defendants. To schedule a free and confidential consultation to see how we may assist you, please contact us online or at (877) 975-3399.

More Blog Posts:

New Jersey Statute on Breath Testing for DWI Requires Unconditional “Yes” to Avoid Refusal Charge, Court Holds, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, July 7, 2014

Court Can Require Ignition Interlock after Refusal to Submit to Chemical Testing, Even if Police Did Not Include It in Warning, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, July 5, 2014

Woman Posts Alleged Violation of DWI Probation on Facebook, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, July 3, 2014

Photo credit: By Fernost (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.