Is Surveillance Footage Admissible in Court in Pennsylvania?
If you ever watch the news, you have probably caught a glimpse of how surveillance camera footage can be used to catch criminals and potentially during trials. This type of video seems to be most common for burglary and robbery cases. A business will have a few surveillance cameras installed on the premises, each with one static point of view. They catch bits and pieces of the crime, sometimes capturing images of people, sometimes not. This type of footage can be highly incriminating if you are clearly distinguishable, yet it can also be of little use to law enforcement and prosecutors.
Just because an area where a crime occurred had a camera, does not mean it recorded high-quality footage or proves you were there. The truth is that even if police or prosecutors have video footage, they may not have a strong case against you. If you are facing criminal charges, contact the Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC at (412) 281-2146 to learn how prosecutors use surveillance cameras in criminal cases.
Surveillance Camera Footage as Evidence
Surveillance camera footage is often used as evidence in criminal cases. There is no reason why it inherently cannot be used, though the party that seeks to admit it into the court record must prove it is appropriate. Whether or not the prosecution or your attorneys can use footage or any other evidence for that matter, rests on whether it is admissible.
An important test of whether evidence is admissible is whether it is relevant. Under Pennsylvania’s Rule of Evidence 402, irrelevant evidence is never admissible and relevant evidence is admissible except when prohibited by law. Rule 401 states evidence is relevant if:
- It has a tendency to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence, and
- The fact is of consequence in determining the action.
It is easy to see how surveillance camera footage could be relevant if it depicts a person committing a crime. It would have the tendency to prove a crime was actually committed and through a specific person’s actions, which is integral to the criminal case.
Being relevant is crucial yet not the only test of whether evidence is admissible. It also must not cause unfair prejudice or confusion, mislead the jury, result in undue delay or waste of time, or be needless, according to Evidentiary Rule 403.
Whether or not you can get surveillance camera footage excluded from evidence in a case against you depends on the specific facts regarding the footage, including what it actually shows. You should speak with an experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer to learn more about challenging evidence.
Challenging Surveillance Camera Footage in Court
It can be difficult to have surveillance camera footage excluded from evidence in your case. However, you and your attorney can still attack the footage as evidence during a trial. Just because the video was admitted, does not mean it proves your guilt. There are common issues with surveillance footage that your attorney can bring up to the jury, including the potential that it has been tampered with or that the footage is too low of quality to identify you.
As technology has advanced leaps and bounds in recent years, it is not farfetched to wonder if a video has been altered in some way. Anyone can purchase software that makes it possible to edit video. If there is not a clear chain of evidence possession for the footage being used against you and if it cannot be determined that it is from a credible source, your attorney can fight to exclude it from evidence or minimize its impact in court.
Additionally, despite the potential for high-resolution digital video, many businesses and municipalities still have poor quality recordings. The footage could be extremely blurry, too far away from the criminal conduct, or from the wrong angle to be helpful. In these situations, your attorney can attack the prosecution’s notion that it identifies you.
Call a Pittsburgh Criminal Defense Attorney for Help
If you have been charged with a crime and the police or prosecutors claim to have surveillance camera footage of you committing the offense, contact the lawyers of Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC today. This does not mean the situation is hopeless or it is pointless to mount a defense. They could be bluffing, and without seeing the footage, you may not realize how weak this evidence really is. By working with an attorney, you have someone who will gather and review all of the evidence for and against you and determine the best defenses possible.
For more information, call us today at (412) 281-2146 to schedule a consultation.