Bodycam Footage and Their Impact on the Trial Process

In any trial proceedings, the evidence plays a significant part in determining the guilt or innocence of a defendant. Each side may be able to bring in a handful of witnesses that can refute or corroborate the events of a case, but it will all fall on the evidence to tell the whole story. Prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers in Las Vegas will not be able to build a solid case without a solid set of evidence to support their arguments.

Among the common forms of evidence used in many criminal trials is video evidence. In recent years, video evidence has become a flashpoint in legal proceedings thanks to the increasing sophistication and portability of recording devices. Dash cams and mobile phone cameras remain to be the top source of digitized video evidence among Las Vegas courts, but the introduction of body cams have turned things into a different direction.

Rewind and Review

Video evidence is a subcategory of the wider classification of digital evidence, or evidence materials obtained and stored in digital format. Other kinds of digital evidence include audio recordings, browser data, databases, credit card spending records and the like. They can be accepted as a means of circumstantial evidence, although some courts may reject their entry into records due to certain overbearing prerequisites.

  • Many courts across the country treat video evidence in the same way that they treat traditional documents and court testimony these days, subject to the Federal Rules of Evidence. However, because of the relative ease that video evidence can be modified prior to submission to the court, several judges choose to apply other statutes on a case-to-case basis.
  • Video evidence may be ruled inadmissible if the presenter fails to confirm that it was obtained with authorization. This usually leads to the court issuing a separate warrant to seize is issued before the video can be entered into the case archives.
  • Take note that the court has the final say whether or not to accept any video material as evidence. If they choose to accept it into the records even if the presenter does not provide complete credentials of its authenticity or authorized use, it is their prerogative, and it would be counterproductive to the appealing party to argue otherwise.

Caught on Camera

Police body-worn cameras are relatively new technology, aimed at providing better accountability for both the law enforcement and the general public. First introduced in the mid- and late 2000s, these recording devices slowly became a standard part of everyday police activities, and didn’t attract as much attention in the US until very recently. With the rise of alleged police brutality videos obtained from body-cams, these miniature devices have become a major hotbed for both sides of the legal table.

  • Civil groups have been vocal in their support for a wider adoption of body-cams for all segments of law enforcement, citing its role in increasing an officer’s accountability for his or her actions. Local police unions, meanwhile, have been strongly critical of the device and argue that it can distract an officer from conducting his or her duties.
  • Las Vegas Metro Police maintains a strict policy when it comes to bodycam footage. Included in that policy is making it easier for the public to access these videos by following the proper channels, for purposes like redacting sensitive data and the like.
  • Bodycam footage handling for court processes will often involve both prosecutors and defenders in order to have a better understanding of how they will be handled in an actual trial. This works as a countermeasure to prevent misrepresenting the footage in court.

Blurry Perspectives

Despite the presence of recommended guidelines and policies with bodycam use in Las Vegas, there is still the chance that the footage can be used in a malicious way to falsely incriminate a defendant. The captured images can be interpreted to turn the story around based on how the events are interpreted.

  • A delayed release of bodycam footage can usually raise the suspicion that it has been tampered with prior to release. This can adversely weaken the video’s credibility and can prove disastrous if the officers were to stand on trial. The Michael Brown shooting incident stands as a prominent and very recent example.
  • Another aspect is the release of partial footage that only tells part of the story. Defendants fear that bodycam material made available to the court only contains a segment of the case in question, thereby altering how the events conspired.
  • Such instances would hardly ever happen in an actual scenario, but an erroneous interpretation of the contents of the bodycam video can lead to the same skewed results. Should the bodycam footage be entered as evidence, the defendant and his or her lawyer should always be on the lookout for inconsistencies in the footage and in the testimony gathered to corroborate it. It can go a long way in proving a defendant’s innocence if holes are found in the video evidence.

 

Bodycams are a novel approach to ensuring that both law enforcement and citizens are held accountable for any actions that they commit. It is hoped, however, that such devices will not be used to wrongfully indict someone of committing a criminal act, in Las Vegas or elsewhere.