Hunt was arrested and ultimately entered a conditional guilty plea to one count of drug trafficking, and was sentenced to 180 months in prison. In his appeal, Hunt made a motion for suppression of evidence on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence, both for the canine search, and of the evidence from the canine search, aided by the fact that the officer had intentionally turned off his Dash Cam:
  1. There was insufficient reasonable suspicion to conduct the “canine sniff”
  2. There was insufficient evidence of the reliability of the “canine sniff,” in part because of the missing dashboard camera footage
  3. The search warrant used to obtain Hunt’s cell phone information was invalid because it lacked information concerning the reliability of the confidential informant
  4. Hunt’s statements implicating himself were coerced and therefore should be excluded.
While Circuit Judge Alan E. Norris claimed that the length of time the officer left the Dash Cam off, made it a justifiable offense under a precedent set by the Supreme Court, Tech Dirt noted that it was the rights violation that mattered—not the length of time in which it was committed:
“This completely ignores Supreme Court precedent, which made it clear it wasn’t the length of the rights violation, but rather the violation itself. Once the purpose of the traffic stop has been achieved, any fishing expeditions by law enforcement past that point are Constitutional violations, whether it’s five minutes, ten minutes, or a half hour. A holding like this makes it that much easier for officers to slow roll traffic stops so they can run a drug dog around a car they stopped for a lane change violation. That’s what appears to have happened here and both courts (district, appellate) said this is fine.”
As The Free Thought Project has reported, while video evidence of an officer’s crimes does not guarantee that he will be charged accordingly, the footage from body and dash cameras has been instrumental in many cases. In August, Body Cam footage revealed that multiple Baltimore Police officers were planting drugs on innocent individuals and conspiring to manufacture evidence.
In the case of Darrell Hunt, it appears that the judges who have addressed his charges seem to focus more on the evidence that was recovered, than on the methods that were used to obtain it, setting a dangerous precedent for other officers who choose to turn their cameras off to suppress evidence.