How Is Video Evidence Used in Criminal Cases?
There are many types of evidence that can be used to build a criminal case, but one of the most compelling types of evidence is video. When we can see something with our own eyes, it is usually very convincing. Sometimes a crime is caught entirely on video, either through a security camera or other surveillance device. This makes prosecution very simple for the D.A. and police, as all the evidence that is needed is right in front of their eyes.
Usually, though, police do not have such clear-cut evidence. Maybe a video shows a suspect leaving or entering the scene of a crime. Other times, video is blurry, out of context, or far away and indicates that something is taking place, but it is not necessarily obvious what. In these cases, video evidence can sometimes be the nail in the coffin for a case against a suspect, even though it is not 100 percent clear that what is being shown actually supports police interpretation of events.
In these cases, video evidence is used to build a case supporting the police theory of what happened. Juries tend to be very convinced by video evidence, since they think they are being shown an unbiased record of the events. For this reason, it takes an experienced defense lawyer to show how the video may be demonstrating a version of events not quite the same as what the prosecution is presenting. When not properly refuted, video evidence often will lead to a conviction, as it is still one of the most convincing types of evidence that can be shown to a jury.
When Is Video Evidence Admissible in Court?
As surveillance cameras proliferate throughout Pittsburgh and the entire state of Ohio, video evidence related to crimes becomes an increasingly common form of evidence in trials. For this reason, it’s incredibly important to know when video evidence is admissible in a trial and when it is not.
In general, the rules of evidence require that four criteria be satisfied before the video evidence can even be admissible in trial.
Proper Preservation: The video has been maintained and stored properly. The footage has not been degraded, tampered with, or lost due to improper use of memory cards and other temporary storage devices on which images are recorded.
Sufficient Policy: The police must have a policy for evidence collection and preservation of digital and electronic video evidence, and this policy must have been followed in the course of obtaining and using the video.
Authenticity: The video evidence must be proven to be a true and accurate reflection of what it is claimed to be. The video and timestamp must be demonstrably un-tampered with.
Relevancy: In order to be admissible, video evidence must be proven relevant to the crime at hand, as well as important in order to prove guilt.
When a Pittsburgh defense attorney believes that the video will hurt his or her client, the lawyer must try to show that one of these criteria is not met if the video is to be excluded from the trial.
In general, video evidence in criminal cases can be either an aid in finding the truth or a difficult obstacle to that goal, depending on the situation. Still, as video evidence becomes more and more common in Pittsburgh cases, we must learn to understand its place in trials—as well as all the advantages and disadvantages that come along with it. If you have been accused of a crime due to damaging video evidence, you need the support of a criminal defense lawyer who has experience and understanding of how it can change a trial. Call the Pittsburgh defense attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys today at (412) 281-2146 for a free consultation on your case. Find out how we may be able to help.