The Impact of Police Body-Worn Cameras on Justice and Accountability

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Body-worn cameras, also known as bodycams, are widely used in Florida state and local law enforcement agencies. Videos captured by body-worn cameras serve as evidence for prosecutors and defense attorneys in criminal proceedings. Additionally, they promote police officers’ accountability, offering a level of transparency at the scene of a crime. With the availability of bodycams, this technology adds another valuable tool for misdemeanor and felony criminal defense.

A Recent Case that Highlights the Need for Bodycam Use

The high-profile arrest of champion golfer Scottie Scheffler on May 17, 2024, during the PGA Championship for attempting to enter the scene of an accident illegally has taken a twist. The Kentucky police officer who arrested the golf star is being disciplined for violating the Louisville Metro Police Department’s policy by failing to activate his bodycam. Two other officers at the incident scene have also been disciplined for not activating their body cameras.

Scottie Scheffler was charged with a second-degree felony for the assault of a police officer, third-degree criminal mischief, reckless driving, and disregarding signals from police officers directing traffic. While the case ended in Mr. Scheffler’s favor, as charges were dropped on May 29, 2024, this arrest may have ended much differently had it not been for Mr. Scheffler’s notoriety. Given the same scenario for another individual, they may have endured a lengthy criminal proceeding, and if bodycam footage was available, it may have been helpful to demonstrate their innocence. This case underscores the need for law enforcement compliance with body camera policies. 

Regulations for Law Enforcement Body Camera Usage

Under Florida Statute §943.1718, body cameras are portable electronic devices worn by law enforcement officers to record audio and video data of police-related encounters and activities with the public. Under Florida law, law enforcement agencies must write specific policies for the usage, maintenance, and storage of body cameras, including specific training for police officers regarding the storage, retention, and release of data recorded by the device. 

How Video Footage Can Help Build a Defendant’s Defense

There are many instances when bodycam video footage can be used to challenge a prosecution’s case, or the footage may be found inadmissible in court. A prosecutor’s case can be challenged when the footage contradicts the version of the events, the police report, or there are inconsistencies in witness testimony. The footage can prove an alibi that a defendant was wrongly identified and not at the crime scene. If a police officer failed to read Miranda rights, used excessive force, engaged in an illegal search and seizure, or made a technical error in an arrest, video footage may be used to challenge the integrity of the charges against the defendant. These examples may or may not fully exonerate a defendant. However, they are mitigating factors that can be used in negotiating a favorable plea deal for a lesser sentence.

Questions to Ask When Bodycam Footage is Presented as Evidence

  • Is the footage relevant to the issue in the case?
  • Are there gaps in the footage due to a malfunction, or did the officer choose to turn the camera off?
  • Does the bodycam capture a complete picture of the alleged crime, or are there obstructions in the field of view and misleading camera angles?
  • Does the police officer make technical errors or use undue force in the arrest?
  • Is a chain of custody established to prove the footage was not tampered with or edited?
  • Has the bodycam been properly maintained?
  • Is the police officer trained and proficient in using the camera?

Contact The AP Law Group for Criminal Defense of State and Federal Crimes

The AP Law Group aggressively defends against all Florida misdemeanor and felony crimes. We understand that your freedom, career, personal life, and reputation are on the line when you face a state or federal criminal arrest. With decades of combined criminal defense experience, you can count on us to examine every piece of evidence, leaving no stone unturned in finding solutions for the toughest situations. 

The AP Law Group has offices in Ocala and Gainesville, Florida, and we represent clients in Marion County, Alachua County, and the surrounding areas. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, call for a consultation with Attorney Tania Alavi or Attorney Andrew Pozzuto at (352) 732-9191. We are committed to your legal defense.