In recent years, several police shootings involving the deaths of unarmed African Americans have made national headlines and sparked heated debates about law enforcement protocol. In an effort to hold officers more accountable and to gain back the public’s trust, many police departments throughout the United States have made body cameras standard issue.
Body cameras enable police officers to record and collect evidence to support their account of the arrest. Video footage from police body cameras are admissible as evidence in court.
Prosecutors can call upon an officer to testify in the case and examine the footage in court. It is now possible to have concrete evidence of a police encounter without relying entirely on the police report and the officer’s memory.
Although police body camera footage can benefit the prosecution in a criminal case, it can also help the defendant. Criminal defense lawyers no longer must depend on witness testimony to understand all the details of a police encounter and clear up any discrepancies in favor of their client.
The following are several ways police body camera footage can aid the defense:
- Hold law enforcement officials accountable and keep them honest when testifying in court
- Contradict a statement made by either police officers or witnesses
- Bring police misconduct to attention
- Prove the defendant is innocent
However, there is still a lack of standardized rules and protocols to obtain such footage. In general, the public will not have access to police body camera footage. In many cases, these videos won’t see the light of day until months or even years later. When such footage takes that long to be released, it could be lost, erased, mishandled, or misused in some manner.
Even if police body camera footage is available to the public, it is still difficult to get a hold of. For instance, a man in Florida requested a copy of 84 hours of body camera footage but was asked to pay $18,000 in exchange. Even it is possible to obtain a fee waiver for a small amount of video, there are still potential obstacles to overcome.
At Hager & Schwartz, P.A., our Daytona Beach criminal defense attorneys are committed to helping build the strongest defense strategy possible. We can investigate your case, collect evidence, and review police body camera footage to help you get the most favorable results.
Contact us and schedule an immediate consultation for more information today.