Is video evidence admissible in court? As with everything, the rules vary from court to court across the country. However, in general, video evidence is frequently admitted into evidence in civil and criminal trials. The key is not so much the type of evidence, but rather, laying the proper foundation and authentication for admitting it into evidence.
Is Video Evidence Allowed in Court?
Sure. After all, the police frequently use video surveillance footage to convict defendants in criminal trials. Likewise, dash and body camera footage is a key component in many DUI / DWI trials. In civil cases, video evidence can be useful to prove a wide range of issues. But it all depends on how the evidence was obtained and whether it can be authenticated properly.
Video Surveillance Evidence
In order to admit anything into evidence, there are several key elements necessary. These include:
- First, there must be a human being who is capable of establishing what the evidence is and what it shows.
- Second, a human being must authenticate the evidence. In other words, there must be someone who can testify to the accuracy or relative validity of the evidence.
Is Video Enough Evidence to Convict?
Perhaps. In many cases a video will be sufficient to prove a crime. For instance, if there is a records custodian or security professional who is responsible for maintaining video footage, that individual may need to be called to testify that the video is kept in the regular course of business and that no one else has had access to the video. Likewise, this individual may testify that the video clearly and accurately portrays the events that he or she witnessed during real-time. When combined with clear testimony, a video can be very powerful evidence.
Laying Foundation for Video Evidence
Laying a foundation means proving that the video actually shows what it appears to show. Because video evidence is capable of being manipulated or edited, there is often a requirement to prove that the video has been processed carefully through the chain of custody and that a human witness can testify to the accuracy of the video.
Without this, it is rare for a judge to allow a video to serve as a self-authenticating piece of evidence. There are exceptions to the rule, of course, depending on jurisdiction. For instance, South Carolina has a specific rule regarding the type of evidence that can be considered “self-authenticating.”
Authenticating Video Evidence
The authentication process involves having someone testify in support of the video evidence. Again, this can be anyone from a security person, records custodian or an independent witness who can corroborate the video’s footage.
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