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Criminal Law and the Ubiquity of Video Cameras & Video Cell Phones

Julian Sanchez, a writer for The Cato Institute, has an interesting article on the rise of cell phone cameras in leveling the playing field between police and citizens. While judges will always tell juries not to give police testimony special weight, and instruct jurors to evaluate a police officer’s truthfulness as they would any other witness, the fact is that juries and judges tend to give special weight to police officers.

In the days before cell phones with video capabilities, it was very difficult for a defendant to challenge a police officer’s testimony if there were no independent witnesses. In a “battle” of witnesses between a police officer and the defendant, the police officer would generally win.

But beginning with the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles, which was captured on video, and even more so today, the cheap, handheld video camera or, even, camera phone can capture images and video so that we can all see what took place.

I’m waiting for the day people can have a video camera installed in their car, so that if they are searched, we can have an independent record of whether that search was done according to the constitution, and the laws.

Most Raleigh Police Department officers are fantastic, but it is always good to have an independent record so that everyone plays according to the rules.

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