Caught on Camera? Why Video Evidence isn’t Always Allowed in Court

Everywhere you turn today there seem to be surveillance cameras; at your house, your neighbor’s place, red lights, street corners, and stores & parking garages just to name a few. No matter what you are doing in your day-to-day life it seems like every moment is being recorded.   

With the abundance of cameras, court cases may include video surveillance footage as court evidence. If you have been charged with allegedly committing a crime and the Prosecution believes they have you caught on camera; it does not necessarily mean your trial is over before it’s even begun. There are other mitigating factors and technicalities that can lead to the dismissal of legal evidence in your case.  

Key Takeaways Should Your Case go to Trial:  

  • If law enforcement and the Prosecution believes they have you caught on camera; it does not necessarily mean your case is over.  
  • There are ways to have video evidence be deemed inadmissible in court. This includes the evidence could be what is considered the fruit of the poisonous tree and therefore not allowed to be presented at trial.  
  • The integrity of the video footage matters. If still allowed in court, reasonable doubt may be established for your defense strategy. 

If you have been charged with a crime and there is what appears to be irrefutable video evidence, it is important to contact a skilled defense lawyer at Stechschulte Nell, as there are possible ways to have security video be thrown out of evidence to help you have the best outcome at trial.  

Common Ways Video Evidence May be Deemed Inadmissible  

In your defense, we may use 3 common ways to have the Judge decide that the video evidence shouldn’t be presented at trial or that it could be used to help your defense:  

It Was Improperly Obtained 

Surveillance camera footage, like any other evidence, must be properly obtained by law enforcement for it to be admissible—or allowed—in court.  

If it is not properly obtained, all evidence, and any discoveries that the evidence may lead to, can be thrown out. You may have heard ‘the fruit of a poisonous tree.  

But how does the police properly obtain the surveillance camera footage? The police need a warrant. 

Without a warrant, a person’s 4th Amendment rights are being violated. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution places limits on the power of the police to make arrests, search people and their property, and size objects/contraband—these limits are the bedrock of search-and-seizure law. 

Without a warrant, any evidence seized by an unreasonable search—such as surveillance footage—cannot be used as direct evidence against the defendant in criminal prosecution. This is known as the exclusionary rule.  

There is a Timestamp Error 

While you may feel video evidence seems bulletproof in court, there are some minor technicalities that can make it inadmissible. 

The most common issue is the timestamp. This minor issue can severely damage the integrity of the video footage. All it takes is reasonable doubt to overturn what seems to be concrete proof—after all you are seeing what actually happened. 

But why would the timestamp be an issue? According to Caught On Camera (an FBI training video), over half of all security camera systems have the wrong time stamped on their surveillance videos. Most owners forget to account for daylight savings or there is simply just an input error. 

By having the timestamp on the camera possibly be wrong, it is hard to know if the actual footage was in sync timewise to the actual chain of events. An alleged perpetrator may in some cases use this security footage for their own defense. 

The Whole Story Isn’t Told on Surveillance 

Video evidence does not always tell the whole story.  

While parts may be captured on camera, there are always two sides to the story and/or more to the story that is shown. What may seem like a damaging action caught on camera it could be simply you defend yourself, it may be a case of mistaken identity, or it could be another extenuating circumstance all together. 

When your lawyer can successfully present a reasonable explanation for the defendant’s actions in the video, the surveillance footage may actually help lead to an acquittal or dismissal. Our goal as defense attorneys is to do whatever we can to mitigate your risk at trial.  

Caught on Camera? Call Stechschulte Nell 

If you are being charged for a crime based on video evidence, remember that it is not always the last word in your case.  

The attorneys at Stechschulte Nell will work on your behalf to build a strong case despite video evidence. Our experienced Florida criminal lawyers will look at every angle of the video to make sure it was obtained properly as well as check to see if there are other technicalities and mitigating factors that can make the video evidence inadmissible.  

While video evidence sounds threatening and intimidating, the criminal defense attorneys at Stechschulte Nell are on your side. Request a free case review or call us at 813-280-1244.  

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