You are likely most familiar with footage of on-duty officers when allegations of police brutality arise, dating all the way back to the Rodney King case in Los Angeles. Just recently, a case in New Jersey drew nationwide media attention after footage surfaced of a police officer punching a woman he was arresting after a Memorial Day confrontation on the beach.
Camera Evidence Pros and Cons in Criminal Defense
While police later released the body-cam footage, it was actually video iPhone footage taken by a bystander that generated the firestorm. This illustrates the fact that in today's technological age, cameras are everywhere.
When it comes to law enforcement, dash-camera videos have been in use for many years now -- most frequently in the prosecution of drunk-driving cases. As DUI defense lawyers have rightly disputed the validity of breathalyzer and field-sobriety tests, prosecutors in an increasing number of cases have turned to camera footage to show jurors a defendant's condition and demeanor at time of arrest.
However, that same footage can still work in favor of the defense if an experienced defense lawyer notices issues with probable cause for the stop, unlawful search and seizure, incorrect instructions for field sobriety tests, or any number of other issues.
Technology and Your Florida Criminal Case
The more such footage favors the defense, the harder a defense lawyer may have to work to obtain it as part of the discovery process. Other video evidence from bystanders, store security cameras or even traffic cameras may benefit the case, provided the defense attorney has the experience and tenacity to discover it. This is another reason why speaking to a Clay County defense lawyer as soon as possible is often the best course of action.
Still, body-camera footage obtained by police officers often carries significant weight with judges and juries. In February, MyPanhandle.com reported on the increasing prevalence of these cameras in Florida. University of North Florida police just announced a grant to replace all of their body-camera equipment. The department began with 6 body cameras in 2015; now, the new high-resolution cameras will be issued to all 25 police officers and sergeants.
Courts, too, are struggling with the issue. Prosecutors are increasingly ordering law enforcement to treat camera evidence like any other piece of critical evidence, including proper logging and storage. Such evidence should also be preserved throughout a defendant's right to appeal in the event of a conviction.
Diligent defense attorneys understand how to use such evidence to the best advantage of their client, either in the courtroom, or in negotiations with prosecutors.