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Criminal defense attorney Flint, Michigan

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How Body Camera Footage Can Affect Your Criminal Case

Michigan criminal defense attorneySo it’s happened. You’ve been arrested and charged with a crime. But you know there’s a lot more to the story. That’s why it’s so important to contact an attorney as soon as you can.

Police have been wearing body cameras only for the last several years, but they have proven to be crucial in both showing guilt and innocence of suspects. Body cameras can also help the public fight against police misconduct.

Why body camera footage is so important in your case

It’s only since January 2018 that Michigan has had rules in place for the disclosure and retention of audio or video recordings from body cameras worn by police officers. Signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder, Public Act 85 of 2017 establishes guidelines for retaining and releasing recordings. An experienced criminal defense attorney knows those guidelines and knows how to access that footage that can make the difference in your case.

Body cameras can provide a good record of instances in which police officers may have collected evidence improperly. For example, in Spokane County, Washington, a suspect was charged with transporting a large amount of marijuana improperly. The officer had stopped the suspect for a speeding violation and claimed the search of the car was voluntary, but after reviewing the video, a judge determined the officer had continued questioning the suspect after he should have been free to leave.

In this instance, the charges were eventually dropped. Getting a dismissal without this video evidence would have been much harder.

Sometimes body camera footage does not capture the entire event, especially if police are not positioned properly. But often, the footage means the difference between going to trial or not going to trial. That’s because, particularly in cases where clients are shown to be intoxicated, such footage can help persuade the client to take plea deals and resolve the case quickly.

Challenges faced by body cameras

It’s important to request that footage quickly because, although most police department have cameras, many don’t have storage capacity, so footage can be filmed over and lost fairly quickly. In addition,  police departments have different policies as to how such footage is downloaded and preserved.

There is a notable exemption to the body camera records in order to preserve a person’s privacy. The new law in Michigan exempts the recordings from public-records request under certain circumstances, including if the recordings were made in a "private place.” For example, police may enter a private home to do a well-being check and may find an elderly person in need of care. Those recordings would be considered private.

Also, recordings made during ongoing criminal or internal investigations will not be released, but only if  public disclosure would interfere with law enforcement proceedings or personal privacy. Body camera recordings retained as part of civil lawsuits are not considered public records.

The law also requires law enforcement agencies that use body-worn cameras to develop a written policy regarding their use by officers. This is another way that Attorney Manley can support your case. We will investigate to see if police properly followed their own written procedures. If they did not, the evidence may get thrown out.

It takes an experienced and quick-thinking attorney to help navigate a case where body camera footage is involved. If you've been arrested or charged with a crime, contact us right away.

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