The Illinois Supreme Court says video has become so common in law enforcement that police must preserve it as evidence even in misdemeanor cases.
The court upheld sanctions Friday in a case where police erased video of the May 3, 2008 drunken driving arrest of Marina Kladis in Northlake.
Kladis told prosecutors she intended to fight the charges and wanted the video, but police still followed their policy of destroying videos after 30 days.
As punishment, the trial judge barred the arresting officer from testifying about anything that took place when his squad-car camera was running. Cook County prosecutors appealed, saying that would cripple their case.
The state Supreme Court disagreed. It said the types of evidence subject to discovery can change with time, and video has become so commonplace that defendants should expect to review it.
"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," Justice Charles Freeman wrote for the unanimous Supreme Court.
Scott Burns, executive director of the National District Attorneys' Association, said most states probably already guarantee defendants access to video in similar cases. And police typically would preserve video until a case is resolved, he said.
Kladis' attorney, Edward Maloney, called the ruling major and said it should help innocent people protect themselves in court.
"This will provide more evidence toward reasonable doubt," he said.