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Addressing video evidence at trial

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June 24, 2008

Addressing video evidence at trial

Submitted by:
Doug Wyllie, PoliceOne Senior Editor

Val Van Brocklin says that for any video evidence used at trial, law enforcement officials ought to expect the following questions from the defense:

  • When and how was the recording made?
  • Who was in control of its production?
    • If not the police, when and how did it come into police possession or when and how did they otherwise gain access to it or become aware of it?
  • Who operated the recording equipment?
  • Who else played any role in the creation of the recording?
  • What are the details of the chain of custody?
  • Whether the recording is the actual, original, contemporaneous recording or a copy or re-recording of some sort?
  • Whether any editing or other changes have been done?
    • Who participated in any such editing or changes?

In most cases, Van Brocklin adds, the most important factor to the court is the testimony of a witness that what is recorded is a “fair and accurate” portrayal. Judges are familiar with these “buzz words” and expect to hear them before ruling on the tape’s admissibility. The judges in your jurisdiction might be used to slightly different buzz words so it’s worth knowing what they are. Variations include:

  • "true and correct likeness"
  • "faithful, fair and accurate portrayal"
  • "correct and accurate likeness"

“Your prosecutor will likely know your jurisdiction's particular buzz words and use them in questioning you,” Van Brocklin concludes.

Read more about digital video evidence here.

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