Defenses When You’re Allegedly “Caught on Camera”These days, technology is seemingly used everywhere to make identifications. There are cameras at intersections that take photographs of your car.  There are cameras at the entrances of many stores, offices, and other buildings. Many of these buildings even have cameras throughout their premises. Many homeowners install security cameras. Virtually every smartphone comes with a camera. Cars have cameras. Even the police have cameras. These cameras continually take photographs and videos throughout the day.

Tennessee laws on the admissibility of camera evidence

Tennessee has specific statutes that regulate the use of technology to conduct court proceedings. This is different than using camera images to identify someone in a court proceeding such as using video footage from doorbell cameras or any other type of video evidence.

Tennessee does prohibit the taking of photographs of anyone who has a reasonable expectation of privacy or if the image “[w]ould offend or embarrass an ordinary person if such person appeared in the photograph; and [w]as taken for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification of the defendant.” Generally, Tennessee does permit using still photography, video recordings, and audio recordings at a trial, hearing or other court proceeding open to the public – subject to certain conditions, including whether the image/recording is admissible.

The admissibility of camera evidence in TN

There are a number of defenses to the admissibility of camera evidence that our experienced Sevierville criminal defense lawyers will assert on your behalf when the defenses  apply. These defenses include the following:

  • Violation of your Fourth Amendment Constitutional rights. The Fourth Amendment protects citizens from illegal searches and seizures. Generally, the police do need a warrant to conduct a search of you if you are inside your home or in a private location. Taking a photograph of you while you are in these places may violate your right and expectation of privacy unless the police have a valid warrant.
  • Lack of authentication. According to a University of North Carolina School of Government blog, a proper foundation as to the authenticity of a camera recording must be entered into evidence before the recording can be officially entered into the record. This authenticity foundation requires that there be testimony as to one of the following:
    • That the images “fairly and accurately illustrates the events filmed.”
    • That the chain of custody of the camera images or video be properly preserved. This means that the prosecution must show when and how the original images were taken, how law enforcement took possession of the recordings, and who had custody of the recordings from the time of possession until the time of the request to the court to formally introduce the recording.
    • That the photographs or video were the “same as those the witness had inspected immediately after processing….”
    • That the photos or videos haven’t been edited
    • That the photos or videos “fairly and accurately recorded the actual appearance of the area photographed.”

The article also states that the admissibility of photos or video recordings require:

  • Showing that the camera/recording systems were properly maintained and were operating properly when the recording of the defendant was made.
  • The video/recording “accurately presents the events depicted”
  • The chain of custody hasn’t been broken.

Additional defenses and issues concerning the admissibility of a camera identification

According to Salvation Data, which provides video products, when the judge considers the admissibility of camera ID evidence, the reasons why the evidence is being introduced must be considered. Camera evidence is a form of demonstrative evidence that may beused to prove a fact, such as that a crime took place and the circumstances around the commission of the crime.

Camera or video evidence may be ruled inadmissible if the evidence is unduly prejudicial (is mainly meant to cause outrage or discomfort), violates a privilege (such as a confidentiality privilege), or is misleading.

The evidence isn’t determinative

Not all camera evidence is the same. Many images simply don’t confirm that the person who committed an offense is actually you. The images may be blurry. The images may not show your face or any identifying characteristics. The images may not confirm that you are the person in the photograph or video for other reasons.

The image may also not show that you committed an offense. If for example, you were charged with shoplifting, a picture or video that shows you were in a store doesn’t prove that you committed a shoplifting or theft offense – even if the picture shows it’s you. There must be corroborating evidence from the camera/video evidence or from the testimony of witnesses that you took something from the store and that you left without paying for that item.

Different defenses apply in every criminal case in Tennessee depending on the criminal charge, what evidence the prosecution wants to use, how that evidence is obtained, and for other reasons. Many types of evidence the prosecution wants to introduce often are not as airtight as they may seem, such as photographs and breath tests. Proper procedures may not have been followed, thus not allowing admissibility. Therefore, the evidence may not be reliable. At Delius & McKenzie, PLLC, our Sevierville criminal defense lawyers assert every defense that applies to your case.

To discuss your defenses and assert your rights, call our Sevierville criminal defense lawyers or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation. We represent defendants in Sevierville, Seymour, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and the surrounding Tennessee areas.