By Marc Emden, Esq.
The creation of body cameras has added a new and helpful additional weapon to law enforcement as well as criminal defense work. No longer will any of us have to rely solely upon witness accounts of criminal activity. Body cameras could amass great treasure troves of information for protective and peace order cases where police are called to investigate reports of criminal activity.
In Montgomery County, Maryland, for example, a county police department launched the body camera pilot program over the summer. Police said last month that since July, more than 4,700 recordings of police interactions have been recorded by the 76 officers participating in the pilot.
The use of body cameras by police must track the strictures of the Maryland Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Statute. This law is found in Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceeding Article, section 10-401.This law prohibits the recording of the audio (of conversations) without the prior consent of both parties to the conversation.
However the law establishes an exception where law enforcement investigates the commission of anyone of number of crimes which includes murder, kidnapping rape and theft above $10,000.00 In these cases, the police do not need to obtain consent of both parties.
For now, the placing of body cameras will become more common as time goes by. Along with the proliferation of these devices, governments will be required to enact regulations governing their use by police. Issues dealing with under what circumstances for example the police may turn off these cameras or block out the sound leaving only the video images have yet to be settled.
In the meantime, criminal defense lawyers defending people charged with crimes and people involved in protective and peace orders, gain the advantage of live film footage from events which up to now have been left only to the memories of those present at the scene.