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Can a police body camera footage be used in criminal proceedings?

On Behalf of | Jul 21, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

The Valdosta Police Department requires its officers to record daily interactions with citizens. Annually, high-ranking officers take this footage and report their findings to the Chief of Police after a review.

However, the use of body camera footage can be controversial in criminal cases, especially for those facing charges related to the footage captured by an officer. If you are in this situation, knowing how it could affect your case can be helpful.

Rules and limitations

Police officers in Valdosta must wear body cameras when interacting with citizens, even though it is not a law in Georgia. However, they have to follow two codes of conduct when using their body cameras:

  1. SB 94 (2015) requires law enforcement to monitor how their officers can use the body cameras, store and access footage. Officers must record on the clock as part of their official duties.
  2. HB 976 (2016) generally requires video to be kept for 180 days and up to 30 months in criminal cases. Under this law, law enforcement cannot edit the video.

The fact that the laws regarding body cameras vary between jurisdictions can create confusion. And if you are in a position to be interacting with police, you could already be stressed out. Thus, it might be wise to assume that whenever you talk to the police, there is the potential that they are recording.

Usage of body camera footage

In situations where police ultimately do arrest someone, knowing whether body camera footage exists is vital. If someone needs access to the footage for a legal defense, they can do so within the required retention period.

There are several benefits for law enforcement officers to use body cameras, including:

  • Exposing officer misconduct
  • Improving training
  • Increasing accountability from police

Despite the benefits, there are concerns associated with the use of body cameras, including citizens’ lack of privacy and public access to the footage. Additionally, body camera footage may not always provide clear, unbiased evidence in court cases.

How it can help in criminal cases

Body camera footage provides a visual record of interactions between police officers and citizens, which can be helpful in determining what happened during an incident and providing evidence for a criminal case. However, it is important to remember that the footage has limitations and may not always show the full story. As such, obtaining and interpreting official footage with the help of legal assistance is crucial for improving the outcome of a criminal case.