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Report Claims Police Block Access to Body Camera Evidence

In the wake of police shootings and individuals dying while in police custody (think Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, Maryland, and New York City), an increasing chorus of voices from all corners of the criminal justice system called for police to be equipped with body cameras. There were many benefits to body cameras, supporters touted, including that innocent police officers who were “doing their job” and who happened to use lethal force to defend themselves would be exonerated more swiftly. Yet a recent report from the Washington Post found that:

  • Of 750 fatal shootings by police at the time of the report, only six percent – a total of 49 shootings – were caught on police body cameras;
  • Twenty of the 49 videos have been released to the public, with several of the videos released being heavily redacted; and
  • Several states, including Florida, have enacted measures that can hinder the release of police body cameras to the public.

Florida’s Police Body Camera Law

A law enacted in July 2015 states that police body camera videos may be withheld from public view if the footage is taken inside a home, at a hospital, or at the scene of a medical emergency as well as in all instances where the person or people depicted in the video had a reasonable expectation of privacy. The law could therefore be used to prevent the release of footage:

  • Of a domestic disturbance where officers entered the home;
  • Of a hospital confession or interrogation of a suspect who is in the hospital;
  • Of a DUI fatality roadside investigation.

The law does not make such footage completely unavailable, however. In any case involving police body cameras the individuals depicted in the video can sign a release authorizing the disclosure of the body camera video. In addition, the law only restricts the public release of the video footage: defendants and their attorneys should still have access to the body camera footage of officers even if the footage is never publicly released.

Body Camera Footage and Your Criminal Defense Strategy

Body camera footage can be an extremely valuable tool in preparing your criminal defense. It is not uncommon for an officer’s recollection of a stop – or even the report he wrote several hours after the stop – to differ in a significant manner from the body camera footage. What is more, a body camera footage allows the judge and/or jury to see behaviors and attitudes that an officer might conclusively describe as “aggressive,” “combative,” “nervous,” etc. first hand – they, the factfinders, are able now to draw their own conclusions from the facts.

Contact Your South Florida Criminal Defense Attorney

Body camera footage is just one type of evidence that must be collected, evaluated, and considered when fashioning your criminal defense. Experienced Miami criminal defense attorney Jeffrey S. Weiner is experienced in crafting and implementing successful criminal defense strategies for clients charged with a variety of criminal offenses using all evidence available in a case. Contact his office today at (305) 670-9919 and schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with him.

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