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Body Worn Cameras and the Courts

With assistance from SJI, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) completed a comprehensive review of issues relating to body-worn cameras (BWC), and the collection, publication, testing, and use of video evidence generated during state court proceedings.

Following the April of 2015 release of the Body-Worn Cameras for Law Enforcement Assessment Report by U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which detailed a number of different BWC devices and capacities of the technology, questions began to surface related to recorded material, particularly as it is used in criminal and civil cases. The NCSC report titled, Body-Worn Cameras and the Courts, addresses a series of considerations state courts may want to explore in anticipation of more widespread adoption by law enforcement of BWCs and their continued presence in legal proceedings, such as:

  • Video and Lost or Destroyed Evidence;
  • Law Enforcement and BWC Policies;
  • Authentication and Publication of Video Evidence;
  • Relevant Case Law, including: Arizona v. Youngblood, Asherman, Merriman, and Durnwald Cases;
  • Statutory Issues;
  • Negative-Inference Instructions to the Jury; and,
  • Freedom-of-Information/Open-Records Statutes.

The appendices include comprehensive information regarding states that follow and do not follow the Youngblood standard, as well as a resource list for additional reports and collections related to current and pending BWC issues. The conclusion acknowledges BWCs for their ability to improve public trust, but also suggests that state courts need to implement practices and judicial education programs that account for the impacts on criminal cases during pretrial proceedings where video is lost.