Capturing video evidence is one thing. Presenting it in court is a whole other ballgame. Any mistake could cast doubt and the evidence could be dismissed. It’s imperative that law enforcement and prosecutors understand how to present video evidence in court.
Before we dive headfirst into how to present video evidence in court, we should take a quick look at some rules of evidence. Video evidence must fit certain criteria to be admissible in court and available to the jury for deliberation. Let’s take a look at the most fundamental rules video evidence must follow to make it to court.
The Rules of Evidence
Evidence Must Be Relevant
Of course, the video doesn’t always exactly capture the crime occurring. It is up to the prosecutors to filter out irrelevant video evidence that doesn’t adequately represent the case because it’s their reputation and credibility at stake when they present the evidence in court. An irrelevant piece of evidence will not be admissible in court.
Evidence Must Be Reliable
The video footage presented as evidence in court must be obtained lawfully and from a reliable source. It must be authentic and not manipulated or tampered with in any way. Of course, video often has to be enhanced to be viewable in court, but that enhancement should be documented and vouched for by a video forensics expert. To establish reliability and authenticity, the person who shot the video is often called as a witness.
How to Present Video Evidence in Court
Now that we’ve established what to present in court, here are some tips on how to present video evidence in court. These tips outline how to comply with the rules of the court and have the best chance of having video footage admitted as evidence in court.
1. Maintain an unbroken chain of custody
The chain of custody is arguably the most important part of evidence. An inadequate chain of custody will immediately cast doubt on the integrity of the video footage evidence. The jury will have a hard time believing the evidence if they can’t trust who has had possession of it. Especially when the mainstream media shows how easy it is to manipulate videos. And that’s if the video footage evidence is admitted in court in the first place, which is not a guarantee with a murky chain of custody.
A digital evidence management system like VIDIZMO DEMS, generates a chain of custody for each evidence file, recording who accessed it, when and what they did with it, maintaining a transparent log of every activity with a piece of video footage evidence. The system also detects any tampering with the evidence.
2. Use the original recording in court
In the process of analysis, the original video footage evidence is often copied and duplicated. However, it is not a good idea to use copied video footage as evidence in court. If the video has been enhanced, as is often the case with surveillance footage, a document should accompany the evidence explaining the enhancement process. Although federal rules of evidence allow duplicates in court under specific circumstances, it’s a good idea to save the original copy for court.
VIDIZMO Digital Evidence Management System retains the original video file regardless of how many times it is copied, shared or edited.
3. Keep a log of your actions
It’s important to have a record of all the actions performed with a piece of video footage evidence to show in court that the footage was not doctored or tampered with in anyway, except that which was necessary to clarify the recorded events.
VIDIZMO Digital Evidence Management System generates an audit log, recording every action that takes place in the evidence portal by any registered or unregistered user, that can be downloaded and printed out to show in court.
4. Transcribe the video
Transcription is especially important when presenting an interview room recording. Not everyone in court will be able to hear the video perfectly and they may end up guessing what’s being said which just introduces another variable into the equation. To counter that, the video should be transcribed and, if in another language, to eliminate ambiguity.
VIDIZMO DEMS packs artificial intelligence capabilities that automatically transcribes and translates videos from several languages.
5. Redact any personal information
Protecting the privacy of witnesses or bystanders appearing in the video is crucial. All personally identifiable information should be redacted from the video footage evidence, such as faces and license plates, according to the privacy policies of the law enforcement agencies, the law firms representing the case and the legal regulations. Privacy redaction is also important to remove any prejudice and ensure that the jury will form a fair, unbiased verdict.
Again, VIDIZMO Digital Evidence Management System’s artificial intelligence automates the redaction process.
Other than the above-mentioned ways, you can ask questions, take quizzes, assignments, projects, etc.
There are certain rules and criteria that video footage evidence must abide by to be considered by the judge and the jury and help deliver justice. These rules play a huge role in how to present video evidence in court. A few tips should help prosecutors have a better chance having their video footage evidence admitted and considered in court.
A digital evidence management solution helps police and law firms to manage their digital evidence, including videos, images, audios and even documents, with robust security, compliance with regulations and ethical artificial intelligence automating essential functions.
Such a system helps them fulfill the prerequisites for presenting evidence in court, such as generating audit logs, chain of custody report, maintaining the original copy, detecting any tampering, and automatic transcription and redaction
Learn more about VIDIZMO DEMS capabilities and offerings.