In the USA, if a police officer tends to delete a dashcam video, it depends on the state and what kind of footage is involved in specific situations. The footage captured by police car dash cams ranges from dashboard footage to the area around the vehicle. Although these devices are helpful tools for law enforcement, they also present some legal issues. This article will discuss the legal issues surrounding dashcam videos and police officers in general.
Are Dashcams Legal in the USA?
Dashcams are legal in some states, according to the New Hampshire attorney general’s office. However, most states do not have laws against the recordings taken by police officers unless they are involved in a criminal act.
Multiple states have enacted “anti-surveillance” legislation that prohibits individuals from recording themselves or others without their consent. However, in these cases, the state has not enforced this law against dashcams or body cameras worn by police officers. Therefore, it is likely that anyone wearing a body camera will be protected against prosecution by this legislation, provided they are not using the recording for any purpose other than law enforcement.
Texas law allows officers to record videos of interactions with the public, including traffic stops and conversations with individuals in their vehicles or on the road. However, the law prohibits officers from recording interactions between individuals in their homes or places of business without their consent.
Types of Dashcams and Bodycams Used by Police Officers
There are two main types of dashcams and bodycams used by police officers nowadays.
This type of camera records on a continuous loop; it can be stopped and restarted at will, and it can play back in slow motion. It also includes temperature, weather, sound, warnings, etc. This type of camera is best suited for recording evidence to either charge or exonerate an individual.
Recorded as video footage with a single file housed on a flash drive or SD Card (this is the most commonly used style). This type of camera is suitable for recording and renders access to footage immediately after the incident. Some bodycams are used by police officers nowadays, which can record audio and video together. These devices allow police officers to record their surroundings and any interaction with the public.
Is It Legal to Share Police Dashcam Videos?
Individuals who capture police dashcam videos can legally share the video as they wish. However, there are a few key caveats one must be aware of if they tend to do so:
1. Individuals should only share the footage if it is for a lawful purpose. For example, if a motorist uses their dashcam to record an altercation or crime footage and upload it on social media. In that case, they should be aware that they may be subject to criminal or civil liability.
2. Individuals in possession of illegally obtained dashcam videos related to the police dept. may still have difficulty prosecuting those who harassed and filmed them. This is because individuals who used the dashcam illegally to film police officers may have acted as accomplices. These individuals will not be protected from liability by anti-surveillance legislation.
3. The recording of police officers is prohibited under federal law. Therefore, individuals who film out-of-state police officers (in states without laws against filming police officers) are not protected legally, making their actions voidable and punishable under local law.
Can a Police Officer Delete Dash Camera Video?
In general, law enforcement officers cannot delete any video or audio evidence from their dash cameras, including audio and visual recordings. In this case, the recording would be considered an “officer’s or employee’s property.” However, there are some instances where the police can delete a recording.
1. The recording is deemed as irrelevant to a criminal investigation or the case
2. The recording contains images of the officer in question committing a felony, in which case their supervisor must first view it before deleting it.
3. It is found that the recording contains material that could pose a danger to the public, such as a stalking case where identifying information was not blurred out because it was intentional.
To sum up, most police dashcam videos cannot be deleted by officers or supervisors. This video must be stored and archived on a government-controlled server to protect themselves against potential lawsuits, which other law enforcement officers can access.
Can Police Order the Citizens to Delete Their Videos?
No. The Supreme Court has stated that individuals have a First Amendment right to record the police in public. This right is one of the essential rights individuals can exercise to ensure that their government acts responsibly and appropriately.
In general, citizens are under no legal obligation to delete their recordings if a police officer asks them to do so. However, if the police do not give them a reasonable explanation, they can file a complaint with the Civilian Police Review Board. But even then, they can only request that one copy be deleted out of every ten copies.
How Can Police Share the Video?
A significant number of police officers are hesitant to view their dashcam videos because they’re worried about losing their job. They’re often told or observe other officers getting into trouble for simply looking at the footage.
Police can share their dashcam videos in four different ways.
1. Recordings can only be shared between government organizations or agencies, such as the District Attorney’s Office, the police chief’s office, the state’s attorney or attorney general offices, and so on.
2. The recording can also be shared with judges if it’s relevant to their case and there are no objections from the prosecution team.
3. Recordings can only be shared with court officials during the time of an investigation or case so that everyone is on the same page.
4. Video recordings can be shared with an individual’s attorney if a criminal case or civil lawsuit has subpoenaed them.
As you can see, dashcam videos are legally complicated and confusing. However, as a police officer, it is your job to make sure you adhere to the laws and policies that are in place. To ensure this, you should seek the advice of a lawyer or legal professional who knows all about dashcam videos and how they should be handled by law enforcement.
Potential Dashcam Legal Issues
Dashcam videos have opened the door to many potential legal issues. These include
1. If a police officer is accused of wrongdoing, the dashcam video of the incident may be needed in court and presented to a judge or jury. However, there are instances where a police officer is allowed to delete dash cam evidence. If this occurs, it could present problems for the prosecution and defendant in court.
2. Although the public has a right to know what their government is doing on a day-to-day basis, sensitive dashcam videos may contain confidential information and should not be made public without permission.
3. If citizens feel like their rights have been violated due to police misconduct or a false arrest, they could use the dashcam video as evidence in court. However, if an officer illegally deleted the video, this could harm the prosecution’s case.
4. Some dashcam videos may contain information that is found to be sensitive and damaging to the public. For example, a recording of a traffic stop involving a high-profile celebrity could contain damaging footage or information that should not be released to the public.
5. A person arrested might decide to sue for civil damages against the police department in question. If there is no dashcam video evidence of the incident in question, this could harm their case because it eliminates one piece of vital evidence.
6. Due to the public nature of dashcam videos, they are subject to being leaked and circulated. If a personal recording of police misconduct is leaked to the public, the officer may face civil damages or criminal charges for illegal recordings.
Although dashcam video can be an effective tool for holding police accountable, it may also be a significant liability in certain situations. A police officer cannot delete evidence and wait for criminal prosecution in court. Police officer must know their rights and responsibilities when it comes to dashcam videos. This knowledge will help ensure that the evidence in question is handled correctly. It will protect the footage from being leaked or illegally deleted while maintaining the people’s privacy.
Q. Do police have to turn their dashcam video on during traffic stops?
A. Yes. All traffic stops and investigations should be recorded by police dashcam video. However, if the officer makes a wrongful arrest, evidence of that arrest may be deleted or destroyed under certain situations.
Q. What is considered to be a “public” place?
A. Police dashcam videos can only be used in public places. Police officers could potentially delete the recording if they’re in an isolated or secluded area.
Q. Can police officers take down dashcam videos when they’re in court?
A. Police officers can delete a dashcam video when presented as evidence during a court case. However, they have to be advised that the video may be used as evidence in court.
Q. Can police officers delete dashcam videos during a criminal investigation?
A. If a police officer is involved in a criminal investigation. They can delete a recording of themselves if they feel like it will harm their case or reveal embarrassing information. However, if the officer thinks that deleting the recording will harm justice for the victim/suspect, they cannot delete it independently.
Q. Is there an exception in the law that allows for police officers to erase dashcam videos?
A. Yes. If a police officer thinks that the recording may endanger innocent people, they can remove the evidence, including deleting the footage during an investigation or lawsuit against them.
Q. Are police officers required to notify others if they have erased a dashcam video?
A. Police officers are not legally required to notify anyone if they have deleted their dashcam video. However, it could be potentially damaging if it comes out at trial that evidence was deleted when it should not have been.