There’s been a huge push from advocates to get police to use body cams to capture encounters with suspects. Here’s a case where I used officer camera footage to help get a felony car theft charge dismissed.

Kevin faced 10 years for getting caught driving a stolen sports car in Spartanburg. Worse, he had a prior record, which won’t help anyone avoid prison.

But he didn’t have to worry about me judging him and assuming him guilty. Honestly, he didn’t seem like a car thief to me. He’s a hardworking fella holding down two jobs.

And I believed in his story, because he had a believable explanation. Kevin told me his out-of-town cousin drove the car to visit Kevin. The cousin came to look at buying another car at a nearby dealer. When he bought that car, he left the sports car at Kevin’s, leaving him the keys and promising to get it back later. 

Kevin got arrested in a filling station parking lot, where he’d driven the sports car to get gas. An officer thought the tag was expired. When the officer ran the license plate, it came up stolen.

What I did to change things. Kevin brought me in to defend him. One of the first things I did is file a discovery motion to get all the evidence the police had in Kevin’s case.

That led to the disclosure of the officer body camera footage– and our eventual victory.

The turning point. The whole case changed for us the instant the officer’s camera recorded the officer telling Kevin the car was stolen.

In living color, in all its digital glory, the video shows Kevin’s face contorting into a grimace of complete – and genuine – shock. You can’t fake that. And you sure can’t fake him hollering “What! It’s my cousin’s car!”

The rub. If you’re wondering why Kevin’s cousin didn’t just straighten this out the instant he got called about it, there’s a sad back story there for Kevin. It turns out someone beside his cousin owned the car and did report it stolen. Needless to say, Kevin’s cousin became very unhelpful.

The result. Armed with Kevin’s footage – and some other facts and arguments I developed – I met to discuss the case with the prosecutor, who registered my concerns. Mainly, I pointed out Kevin had no knowledge the sports car was stolen, and certainly showed no intent to steal it himself.

A few days later, the State dismissed the charges. I’m very proud to say I played a role in being a voice that helped Kevin get his life back with a 10 year ball-and-chain lifted off his back.
Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a workers' compensation attorney.