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Many New Jersey Police Use Body Cameras

Published: Feb 14, 2017 in Criminal Defense

The footage from police body cameras has many potential uses. It can be used to protect the police, ensure defendants are not falsely accused or convicted of crimes, and save criminal courts money. Nearly half of New Jersey police use body cameras now.

If you are arrested in New Jersey, it is highly likely that one of the officers on the scene was wearing a body camera. Depending on your circumstances, this could benefit your case or provide evidence against you. It is best to contact an experienced Jersey City criminal defense attorney at Bhatt Law Group to learn more about how footage can be used in court.

Call us today at (201) 798-8000 to schedule a free consultation.

Grants Enabled 37 New Jersey Forces to Purchase Body Cameras

In September 2016, New Jersey’s Attorney General Christopher Porrino announced the AG’s office would distribute $2.5 million of federal funding as grants to police forces around the state for the purchase of body cameras. Thirty-seven forces across 15 counties were given $500 for each body camera and necessary related equipment. The size of each grant ranged from $1,000 to $90,000 depending on the size of the department. In total, this funding increased the number of body cameras in use from approximately 50 police departments to about 240.

Many New Jersey State Troopers also wear body cameras. As of last October, three stations of state troopers began wearing the devices. While the federal funds could purchase cameras for 1,575 officers, the force plans to equip all 2,600 officers with the equipment in the near future.

Body Camera Footage During a Criminal Trial

Police body cameras are wide-angled video cameras generally worn on an officer’s chest. This placement gives the camera a forward view of what is going on during the officer’s shift. Depending on the department’s policy, the camera may be constantly running during a shift or to be turned on at the beginning of an encounter, such as a traffic stop. In theory, these cameras should capture all of the police officer’s encounters with citizens.

If your arrest was captured on a police officer’s body camera, the prosecutor may want to use that footage in court. It can be entered into evidence during a trial similar to other video and pictures like security camera footage. You should work with a Jersey City criminal defense attorney to obtain the body camera footage and analyze it in regard to the charges against you. An experienced lawyer can offer you an objective opinion on how body camera footage may affect your case at trial.

While police forces are clearly hoping body cameras will support officers’ testimony and aid prosecutors in proving charges, this is not always the case. Body camera footage can show instances when police officers did not follow the law or took unreasonable actions. The video of your arrest may be used to demonstrate you were unlawfully stopped or arrested. It may even prove you did not commit the crime as alleged. The best way to learn how police footage will influence your case is to speak with an experienced lawyer.

Possible Defenses Against Body Camera Footage at Trial

If the footage obtained by a police officer’s body camera is detrimental to your case, you and your attorney may be able to defend against using this video during a trial. Much of police video footage will be public incidents. The police do not need permission to film during this time. However, some situations may take place within your home. If you did not give the police permission to record video and audio when they came into your house, your attorney may be able to argue that this footage was illegally obtained.

There are other ways to defend against body camera footage as well, such as if the police officer’s use of the body camera did not follow the police department’s policy. If your attorney can obtain the relevant force’s policy in regard to the camera, the officer’s written report regarding the incident, and the body camera footage, he will be able to determine how closely the officer complied with policy and law or how far the officer drifted from proper action. It can be argued that footage obtained that does not comply with policy or state law should be excluded.

A third option is to question the chain of evidence. Officers must properly maintain and document the chain of evidence for all camera footage. If it is unclear who handled the video footage, your attorney may be able to argue it should not be admitted into evidence.

Contact a Jersey City Criminal Defense Attorney

As police body cameras grow in use around the state, it will become more common for footage to be used as evidence during trials. If you believe an officer present at your arrest was wearing a camera, tell your attorney right away. At Bhatt Law Group, we understand the impact audio and video footage can have in your case. We will obtain the footage as soon as possible to determine how it may influence your situation.

Call Bhatt Law Group at (201) 798-8000 to schedule a free consultation.