With all the incidents in the national news over the past few months, many of my friends and clients have asked me what I think about the idea of requiring body cameras on all officers. Do I think it is good for our clients? Not so good? Is it necessary? Is it helpful?
The thing I find most striking is that many people don’t realize one important thing: the vast majority of your interactions with police officers are already being recorded. Some local police agencies have been using body cameras for years, but more importantly almost every police vehicle you pass on the street has a dashboard camera installed. Not only can officers activate these cameras at any time, but the camera is automatically activated whenever the officer’s vehicle’s lights/sirens are turned on. And it can actually capture and include video starting 10 seconds before the lights/sirens are activated. Isn’t technology great?
So what does this mean for you? Quite simply: you should assume that everything you say and do is already being recorded for posterity. When you tell the officer you had 10 beers earlier in the night? It’s recorded. When you tell the officer what you really think about his mother? Yep, recorded. Likewise, when the officer says something he shouldn’t have said or does something that shows that he probably doesn’t remember everything he was suppose to have learned at the academy? Recorded!
I personally believe videos can be great evidence for citizens wrongly accused of a crime. But, you have to understand that you are being recorded and act accordingly. I have had dismissals and “Not Guilty” verdicts on cases where the video evidence was the primary reason I was able to keep my client out of jail or prison. Likewise, I have had clients whose otherwise solid defense quickly disappeared after a 10-minute incoherent, belligerent conversation with an officer. Pretty sure those clients didn’t know they were being recorded, unfortunately.
However, another thing most people don’t know is that not all of these videos are preserved while you are waiting for your day in Court. In fact, the vast majority of video evidence is deleted after just a few days or weeks if you don’t act quickly. You need to call an experienced attorney who can take immediate action to file the necessary paperwork to ensure that favorable evidence is available to you in your case.