The Law Enforcement Body Worn Camera Privacy Act sets out the rules that police departments must follow to preserve evidence that can help exonerate a defendant charged with a felony or misdemeanor offense.
Using Body Cam Evidence to Defend Criminal Charges
The Body Worn Camera Privacy Act (BWCPA) requires that law enforcement officers and police departments preserve video from body cams when the evidence is connected to an ongoing criminal investigation, a prosecution, or any ongoing internal investigation. The only exceptions to the requirement that video be preserved are when the video:
- interferes with law enforcement proceedings
- deprives a person of the right to a fair trial
- constitutes an unwarranted invasion of personal property
- discloses the identity of a confidential informant
- discloses law enforcement investigative techniques and procedures
- endangers the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel
- discloses private information regarding a victim
Body Cam Evidence Must Not be Destroyed
The BWCPA sets out the rules for how long body camera video evidence must be preserved and safeguarded by law enforcement. Unfortunately, the rules provide for unreasonably short periods of time before this evidence can be destroyed. Experienced criminal defense lawyers will know how to force law enforcement to preserve this evidence when it might otherwise be destroyed or recorded over. Under the statute, police are only required to preserve “evidentiary audio and video recordings” for 30 days. Evidentiary audio and video includes recordings of crimes, arrests, citations, searches, use of force, and confrontational encounters. Camera recordings that are the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation or an ongoing prosecution must be preserved until the completion of the legal proceedings. Without the intervention of a knowledgeable defense lawyer, the decision as to whether to preserve this important evidence will be left up to the sole discretion of the police. This means that any evidence that shows your innocence will likely disappear unless your lawyer intervenes.
When should body cameras be activated by the police?
Michigan law does not provide standardized rules for police departments to follow regarding when body cams are to be activated and law enforcement agencies are permitted to set their own guidelines. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) recommends that body cameras be activated when making contact with citizens during official police business. IACP further recommends that police advise other officers, emergency responders, and the public if they are being recorded. There are no penalties if officer fails to activate the recorder; however, a defense lawyer will be able to show that the lack of recorded should be considered in favor of the defendant.
Using Evidence in the Defense of Felony and Misdemeanor Charges
The Defense Team with LEWIS & DICKSTEIN, P.L.L.C. has decades of experience successfully defending clients and using law enforcement collected evidence to win jury trials and file motions to dismiss charges. Where many lawyers assume evidence collected by police will support a conviction, skilled and creative lawyers know how to turn the tables in favor of the defense. If you are charged with or being investigated for a felony or misdemeanor offense and you want to turn the tables and gain the advantage in court, call us today at (248) 263-6800 for a free consultation or complete a Request for Assistance Form and an experienced criminal defense lawyer will promptly contact you.