Body-worn cameras are used all over the United States by law enforcement officers at every level. These cameras allow police officers to record the interactions they have with the public during what may be high-stress confrontations. Currently, these devices are being used across the State of Florida in over one hundred local police departments.
When police activate their body cameras, the events that then occur are recorded, which protects both officers and civilians. The footage means that everyone involved is held to account for their actions, and neither party can lie about the events that took place. The footage can also be used by criminal defense attorneys in court as evidence and can help the lawyer protect the defendant’s rights and win their case.
If you have been involved with the police and have been charged with any crime, then you will need the help of a criminal defense attorney. Our team of lawyers at The Law Place has over 75 years of combined experience in helping clients facing a whole range of criminal charges, and there is nothing they haven’t seen. They also have plenty of knowledge regarding body-worn cameras and experience in using the footage as evidence in court. So if you have any questions or queries about body-worn cameras and how they may affect your case, or just about your case in general, you should get in touch today.
Call The Law Place for a free consultation at (941) 444-4444. Phone lines are open 24/7.
What Are Body Worn Cameras?
When you interact with a law enforcement officer in full uniform, you may notice a small, flashing light coming from the center of their chest. This is a body-worn camera, which is a tiny audio and photographic device that is worn by a police officer to record their every move.
Under Florida Statute 943.1718, body cameras are described to be the following:
“a portable electronic recording device that is worn on a law enforcement officer’s person that records audio and video data of the officer’s law-enforcement-related encounters and activities.”
These cameras may be used to capture everything that happens in an incident involving the police, meaning there is solid evidence that can prove what happened, with no need to rely on the memories of those involved.
However, body camera footage isn’t used to substitute an officer’s perceptions or beliefs regarding the event, as a camera can only capture a small amount of an incident and the view of just one particular person. This may not be a reliable account of the entire situation or of the other participants’ involvement. Despite this, cameras are still an incredibly useful tool when putting together a case or a defense, and police officers are allowed to review their camera footage before making any official decision about the case.
The majority of body-worn cameras are attached to the officer’s uniform by either velcro or a clip. While this means that agencies don’t have to order new uniforms when they incorporate body cameras into their units, it does mean that the cameras are not attached very securely, which has led to them being ripped off of the officer’s chest whilst running after or restraining a suspect. This ultimately means that the police officer and defendant have no evidence to prove what happened during the incident.
Florida Law and Body-Worn Cameras
Under Florida law, law enforcement agencies are not required to install body cameras into their units. However, there are specific protocols and regulations that departments that have installed cameras must adhere to. For example, officers who use body cameras must complete the proper training and understand the correct maintenance and careful storage of the cameras. Florida law also requires departments that use body cameras to preserve and maintain footage within their database.
Some law enforcement agencies may choose to use body cameras as a safety net to protect their officers against complaints. However, other agencies feel that the body cameras make members of the community and potential witnesses feel uncomfortable and could deter them from interacting with the police.
Why Are Body Worn Cameras Good for Criminal Defense Lawyers?
As body cameras document disputes that took place between their client and law enforcement, a skilled criminal defense attorney may view the footage for any evidence that can be used in court on their client’s behalf.
Depending on what the footage is, the criminal defense attorney reviewing footage could use it to work out if an officer was abusing their power when they interacted with the client and if any of their client’s rights were infringed upon or violated. For example, the footage could prove that the police performed an illegal search, as they pulled the defendant over without probable cause. If the footage can prove that the police violated the defendant’s constitutional rights, it could lead to the dismissal of the criminal charges.
Body camera footage could also prove a client’s factual innocence, such as if another perpetrator is shown or if the events leading up to the arrest don’t all support the elements of the alleged crime that the prosecution must prove for a conviction.
The footage can also be used if the police report and the client’s statement don’t match, as the video may be able to shine some light on what actually took place. If the footage supports the story that the defendant said, the video could be used to prove their innocence.
Finally, in the case that the police have lost the video footage or weren’t recording, criminal defense attorneys can point out to the jury that they would be able to see exactly what took place if not for the police officer’s inadequacy.
How Body Cameras Are Good for Police
Many police officers in Florida have to wear body cameras as part of their required uniforms. This is so police departments can see how a particular situation developed from start to finish and assess all the factors that contributed to the confrontation. On top of this, body cameras encourage law enforcement to operate with full transparency and deter anyone from making false complaints or reports.
How Body Cameras Are Good for Prosecutors
Not only can body cameras assist criminal defense attorneys, but they can also be used as evidence by the prosecution against the defense, depending on the content of the video footage. For example, if the footage shows the defendant committing a crime, slurring their speech and physically appearing drunk, or acting aggressively, then the state can use the footage to prove the defendant’s guilt.
What Concerns Do Victims Have Regarding Body-Worn Cameras?
As the use of body-worn cameras becomes more and more popular, concerns regarding their use have been voiced more frequently.
Some of the public have concerns about police recording interviews with victims of crime and with other vulnerable people, such as children and the mentally ill. As victims of crime have often experienced an incredibly traumatic event, law enforcement officers need to be sensitive to how recording their interaction could affect and worsen the trauma they experience.
It has been recommended by The Police Executive Research Forum report (PERF, 2014) that police officers should “obtain consent prior to recording interviews with crime victims.” Law enforcement should also be aware of the relevant laws when recording interviews with juveniles and may require additional training for recording interviews with vulnerable people. However, while Florida a “two-party consent” state, which means everyone needs to consent before anyone records their conversations, the same does not apply to police using a body-worn camera to record.
How Should I Interact With the Police?
If you are ever confronted by the police in any way, it is crucial that you know and understand your rights and treat the police with respect. It is important that you stay calm and don’t act aggressively, else this behavior can be used against you.
If you are pulled over in the State of Florida, you have the right to ask if the police officer has a body camera that is on and recording. If the confrontation leads to an arrest, you also have the right to receive a copy of the camera footage from the police department.
What Can an Attorney From The Law Place Do for You?
If you are facing criminal charges or have even just been involved with the police in any way, then you may be feeling stressed and uneasy, and confused by the complex Florida legal system. If so, it’s essential that you contact a criminal defense attorney today to receive valuable advice and guidance.
Below are some of the ways that one of our criminal defense attorneys could help you:
- Investigate the incident and/or your case.
- Interview witnesses.
- Review police reports and the body camera footage.
- Submit any required legal document.
- Build an aggressive and strong defense based on solid evidence if necessary.
- Represent you in court and fight for a dismissal, acquittal, or for the most lenient penalties possible if necessary.
Contact The Law Place Today!
If you or a loved one have been involved in a police dispute or charged with any crime in Florida, then you should contact The Law Place today to speak to a skilled criminal defense attorney about your specific case.
Our attorneys have a deep understanding of the Florida legal system and have immense experience with helping clients, and so you can trust that working with our team will give you the best chance at securing a favorable result. They also have extensive knowledge about the legality of body-worn cameras in Florida and how they can be utilized in favor of the defendant. If you have any general or specific queries regarding body-worn cameras, then you should contact The Law Place today to get answers that you can rely on.
So for excellent legal advice and support regarding any part of Florida law or any type of criminal charge, don’t hesitate to contact our law firm to schedule a free consultation with us today!
Call The Law Place now at (941) 444-4444. Phone lines are open 24/7.