M.D.Pa.: Missing dashcam video of stop and search not shown to be material

The missing dashcam video was not shown to be material. Defendant’s drug paraphernalia was in plain view and it was readily apparent what it was. That led to an automobile exception search. United States v. Griffith, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 71079 (M.D.Pa. Apr. 18, 2022). As to the missing dashcam video:

Here, Griffith has failed to establish either that the dashcam footage is material, or that PSP acted in bad faith in failing to preserve the evidence. First, there is no indication that the video was material, as Trooper Tracy credibly testified that, given the location of his vehicle in relation to the Silverado, any video recorded by the dashcam would not reveal Trooper Tracy’s actions at the side of the vehicle, nor would it demonstrate whether the methamphetamine was in plain view. This indicates that the failure to preserve the dashcam video “neither prejudiced [Griffith] nor affected the fairness of the proceedings.”

Second, there is no evidence of bad faith in the failure to retain the dashcam video. The video was apparently not retained because it depicted an informant, and PSP sought to preserve the informant’s confidentiality. Although Griffith argues that this is not a proper basis to fail to retain the video and, therefore, bad faith should be inferred, PSP regulations provide that “video recordings may be inappropriate” where, inter alia, PSP must protect “the anonymity of an informant or other confidential source of information.” And while Griffith contends that the failure to retain the dashcam video “seriously undermines Trooper Tracy’s credibility,” the uncontroverted evidence establishes that Trooper Tracy played no role in the failure to retain that video, and the decision not to retain the video therefore does not, in the Court’s view, create an inference that Trooper Tracy’s testimony is incredible, or that the video may contradict his version of events. Consequently, the Court concludes that Griffith’s rights have not been violated by the failure to retain the dashcam video, and exclusion of evidence on that ground is not warranted.

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