June 15, 2018
Scranton Criminal Defense Watch: Body Cameras Impact your Case
Government Technology recently reported the growing impact of body camera videos on the prosecution and defense of criminal cases nationwide.
Criminal defense lawyers in Scranton and throughout Pennsylvania continue to follow the impact of technology on criminal cases. Video cameras, cell phone cameras, traffic cameras, and even social media posts to platforms like Facebook or Instagram, are being discovered and used in the courtroom by prosecutors and defense attorneys alike.
But body cameras used by law enforcement can have a particularly profound impact. While they purport to show actions of a defendant, such footage is all too often lost, or at least not proffered to defense, when the footage works against a case’s prosecution. An experienced defense attorney must remain diligent throughout the discovery process to ensure all evidence favorable to the defendant comes to light in the courtroom – or can at least be used in favor of a defendant if negotiating a plea bargain with prosecutors is determined to be in a client’s best interest.
Body Camera Evidence in Pennsylvania Criminal Defense
Even when the action or behavior of a defendant is less than ideal when captured on law enforcement body or dash cameras, a diligent defense attorney may still find procedural errors in evidence collection or other videotaped evidence that favors the defendant. While dash camera evidence has been used in courtrooms for years – most frequently in drunk driving cases – improving technology now allows a growing number of law enforcement officers to wear mini cameras on their uniforms. Some of these cameras are complete with microphones and other technology used to capture evidence.
However, governance of such technology remains in its infancy, and Pennsylvania is among the states still grappling with establishing proper guidelines and procedures. In May, TribLive reported Pennsylvania police were advised by the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association to keep their cameras on and recording throughout an entire incident. Recording should also be treated as evidence, and be properly collected, logged and recorded just like other critical case evidence. Law enforcement was also told to keep video evidence until appeals are exhausted in criminal cases that result in conviction.
Prosecutors have also asked police to consult with them before releasing video footage to the public, which could have free-press implications under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
Defense Lawyers, Technology & Criminal Law in Pennsylvania
Still, the phone in your hand is likely to be the technology with the biggest implications for your criminal defense. While it’s becoming increasingly common knowledge that law enforcement can track a defendant’s movements via his cell phone, the growing use of technology continues to impact criminal cases in the Commonwealth and throughout the nation.
Experienced Pennsylvania defense lawyers tell defendants their lawyer is the only person they should be talking to about their case. Not their spouse, not their coworkers, and certainly not others via social media posts, which can be used in the courtroom long after the fact. Understanding the growing use of technology in the prosecution and defense of criminal cases is another way your chosen criminal defense attorney should be working for you.