Many businesses and homeowners use security cameras as a preventative measure to help protect their people, assets, and property. Not only do security cameras act as a deterrent to potential burglars or unauthorized people accessing a space, but they also give business and property owners peace of mind. There is comfort in knowing that in the event of an incident, the footage of the incident can potentially be used to prove the identity of the person(s) and even act as evidence in a court case.
But what are the laws regarding the usage of security cameras in court? Is security camera footage admissible in court? Are there any special measures that business owners should take to ensure their footage is court-approved? Read on to find out.
Distinct Areas of Surveillance
Typically, security camera footage is segmented into three distinct categories—the home, the workplace, and the public. In order for security footage to be admissible in court, the guidelines for these distinct areas of surveillance must be followed.
- The home: Security cameras may be hidden throughout the home and property. No signs are required to notify people of the security cameras' presence. Although the camera footage can be used in court in the event of a break-in, some states prohibit footage that includes audio. It is illegal to record someone in places throughout the home where a “reasonable expectation of privacy” is assumed—bathrooms, changing areas, showers, bedrooms, etc.
- The workplace: Cameras in the workplace should also follow the “reasonable expectation of privacy” rule. This means that cameras should not be placed in areas where employees can expect privacy—bathrooms, changing rooms, private offices, etc. The “expectation of privacy” rule can get muddy in workplaces, however. So, employers should notify employees of where security cameras are placed to prevent potential “invasion of privacy” claims in the event footage is used in a legal matter. Typically, this should be done in writing. Unions do not allow employers to record union activities, meetings, or any situation that may intimidate or threaten members.
- The public: Public spaces should also adhere to the “reasonable expectation of privacy” rules in regard to the placement of security cameras. Generally, it is legal to place security cameras in other public areas. Some states have laws regarding the usage of footage that also includes audio.
Proof of Relevance
Like all other forms of evidence, surveillance camera footage must adhere to the guidelines set for that specific category of evidence. In order to be considered admissible, digital evidence (including video footage) must be correctly stored, proved to be genuine, and be in line with each state’s varying policies for digital evidence. In addition, the digital evidence must be proved to be applicable and relevant to the case.
As with other forms of evidence, security footage is at risk of being thrown out if it doesn’t meet specific criteria. Legal counsel will need to be prepared to prove that the video footage is unaltered, genuine, acquired legally, and accurately timestamped. In addition, if footage is being used for identification purposes, the quality of the images is extremely important, as they will need to show without a doubt that the person in question is the person featured on the footage.
How DSC Can Help
At DSC, we take security camera solutions seriously. As a premier provider of life safety and security solutions, our Houston security camera installers are committed to designing comprehensive security camera solutions that allow for seamless integration, remote access, and reliable storage methods.
If you’re concerned about whether or not your system is set up in a way that the footage it records can be used in court, let our experts help. To see what DSC can do for your business’s surveillance system, contact us today.