What Can Legally Be Shown in a Police Body Cam Video?
Body cameras worn by police have been key to proving crimes occurred, showing excessive use of force by police, and documenting alleged crimes. As of April 5, 2021, the Phoenix City Prosecutor’s Office has been blurring body-worn-camera (BWC) video that is given to defense attorneys. This is said to be done in an attempt to redact Criminal Justice Information (CJI)and personally identifying information of victims that may be contained within the video. This new rule applies to cases with no victim or cases with a legal entity as the victim. The Phoenix City Prosecutor’s Office says that it is acting in compliance with Arizona Revised Statutes 41-1750 (Q) (1) and 13-4434, and Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 39. Many Arizona defense attorneys object to receiving blurred video, however, saying that it makes it more difficult to defend criminal defendants in cases.
Video footage used in many DUI (Driving Under the Influence) cases has often been blurred from beginning to end by the time defense attorneys receive it. They must then send additional requests to the Phoenix City Prosecutor’s Office in order to receive clearer sections of the video. Defense attorneys note that they need to see how their clients are acting when police talk to them, and to have a clear, accurate depiction of what happened. Some defense attorneys question if the Phoenix City Prosecutor’s Office really wants defense attorneys to see everything that happened in a case.
Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 39 – Protecting Victims’ Rights
There are many victims’ rights cited in Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 39. They include (but are not limited to):
- The right to be treated with fairness, respect and dignity, free from intimidation, abuse or harassment
- The right to notice regarding victims’ rights
- The right to reasonable notice of criminal proceedings
- The right to be present at all criminal proceedings
- The right to be informed of any release or proposed release of the defendant
- The right to confer with the state regarding criminal prosecution of the defendant
- The right to be accompanied at criminal proceedings by a support person
- The right to refuse to testify regarding identifying or locating information
- The right to require the prosecutor to withhold the victim’s identification and locating information
Arizona Revised Statute 41-1750 (Q) (1)
Arizona Revised Statute 41-1750 (Q) (1) refers to specific information that is kept by the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Part of this statute notes that the department is obligated to “establish and enforce the necessary physical and system safeguards to ensure that the criminal justice information maintained and disseminated by the central state repository or through the Arizona criminal justice information system is appropriately protected from unauthorized inquiry, modification, destruction or dissemination…”
Phoenix Public Defender’s Office
The Phoenix City Prosecutor’s Office notes that it did discuss this rule change with the Phoenix Public Defender’s Office, and that that office did not object to the policy change. The office understood that the policy change was designed to expedite initial disclosure of BWC video to court-appointed public defenders and defense lawyers. According to the Phoenix City Prosecutor’s Office, the change in policy has accelerated the initial disclosure of BWC video by the Prosecutor’s Office.
Phoenix defense attorneys, however, disagree. They note that it makes it more difficult to do their jobs and to obtain clear video of what happened in cases regarding their clients. They also ask, if this is a state law, why is it only currently being put into practice in Phoenix?
If you have been accused of a crime and there is body camera video of that crime, contact our Arizona Criminal Defense Lawyers today. You need full representation by an experienced criminal defense team who can help you to reach the best outcome in your case.