Tangaro Law | Utah Criminal Defense Lawyer

Video Evidence

It has to be addressed at some point, that times have changed drastically in the last few years. I’m speaking, of course, about the digital age, and how our every action is being recorded in some sense. Seeing is believing, we have always been told, and with our unfiltered access to the internet it has become much easier for us to “see” all sorts of film from around the world, ranging from candid funny home videos, to damning evidence of criminal activity or exculpatory evidence.


In a legal sense, video evidence is an important and pivotal form of evidence that we see in cases. In criminal cases video evidence is an important tool for lawyers. That kind of direct visual evidence is often irrefutable, but there are issues that this type of evidence raises. First, many of the images that we typically see from cameras often come from cell phones and security cameras, which are often grainy or blurry in quality. This makes the evidence rather unreliable. Crime labs have been able to run software to clean up the ”noise”, so to speak, in videos. The increase in these video editing technologies have led many to question the validity of film evidence in the first place, seeing as how it is so easy to modify.


Video evidence can easily affect the minds of viewers. Recently, the video of NFL player Ray Rice hitting his fiance has circulated around the internet. The video has reached nearly every household in America, and has, needless to say, tarnished the public’s perception of Rice. It is interesting to see how easily it is for public perceptions to be affected by the presence of, and easy access to, video. This could negatively impact how juries perceive facts and evidence, and can skew the outcome of trials away from justice. Video elements that say for instance, show only one angle, or lack any sound, provide only a small piece of the story, yet can have a large effect on the public, often for the worst.


Still, recent events have called for an increase in the presence of cameras, specifically for officers of the peace. The controversies in Ferguson Missouri surrounding the death of Mike Brown, and recently in Utah with the shootings of Darrien Hunt; Dillon Taylor and Danielle Willard have led people to call for the mandatory wearing of cameras by the police, as a way of ensuring greater accountability from the police and increasing safety for both officers and the accused. In the Dillon Taylor officer involved shooting, the officer was wearing a body cam. In the video we can both see and hear the interactions between Dillon and the officer.


As a defense attorney, I believe all officers should be equipped with video. Does it make every case black and white? No, but it provides the most accurate and truest account of any interaction.


According to the Wall Street Journal, police in Rialto, California are now required to wear cameras at all times, and the result has been better policing, seeing not only a more efficient gathering of evidence, but also nearly a 60% drop in the use of force by officers since the beginning of the program. As cameras, media, and technology take bigger and bigger roles in our lives, we must adapt to how they affect us in a legal manner. For better or worse, video has become an increasingly powerful tool of evidence.


Cara Tangaro, Criminal Defense Attorney

Salt Lake City, Utah