DA, public defender butt heads over release of video from traffic stop 

The City's prosecutors and defense attorneys are fighting over whether video from a California Highway Patrol traffic stop should be released to the public.

First Amendment rights are at stake, according to the office of Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who is sparring with District Attorney George Gascón over footage from a May 12 traffic stop.

The case involves Jeanine Williams, who was charged with misdemeanor DUI, providing false information to police, driving with a suspended license and expired registration, according to records.

The CHP provided the prosecution with a DVD containing footage of the incident recorded from the CHP officers' patrol car, but on the condition that the video would not be released to the media, the public or anyone else without express permission from a judge.

Releasing the video -- which "may contain" CHP radio chatter or "tactics" -- to the news media or posting it on social media YouTube would threaten "public and officer safety," according to the CHP.

The District Attorney agreed and asked a San Francisco Superior Court judge to bar releasing the video or any stills pulled from it to the public.

The DA's order amounts to a "blanket protective order" that would block public access to any footage of CHP stops, the public defender argued, which also violates Williams's First Amendment rights.

State law protects much law enforcement activity from public disclosure, though the state Supreme Court ruled last week that the names of officers involved in shootings should be public.

A judge is scheduled to hear arguments in this case on June 17.

About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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