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The Use of Personal Video Recording in Court

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In this digital era, it will not be unusual to find people relying more on digital devices to get things done than they could a few years ago. Smart devices and the internet have become part of our digital lives, and a lot more can be achieved now as compared to what one could do before the digital explosion.
One of the things that many people believe they can do and achieve better results by using a personal video recording in a courtroom as proof of a crime. You may be asking, is such evidence admissible and are there legal implications for doing so? Even when all things are changing slowly due to digitalization, the law is still rigid, and such matters must be approached with great caution. California Criminal Defense Attorneys can help you understand further on the use of personal video recording in your criminal case.
What Does The Law Say?
The California recording law, as provided under Section 632 of California Statutes, covers all confidential communications, including private conversations and telephone calls. This statute is a two-people consent law. Thus, it is illegal for anyone to eavesdrop or record any private communication by another person, without the approval of all the parties involved in the conversation. 
This law applies to all types of confidential communications. Confidential communication means that the parties in the conversation do not expect anyone to listen in to, or overhear the dialogue.
An appellate court in California ruled that the use of a hidden video recorder to capture activities and discussions of others is also illegal as provided in California v. Gibbons, 215 Cal. App. 3d 1204. This 1989 ruling came after it was established that the defendant was secretly videotaping his sexual activities with various women without these women’s consent. 
Even though this kind of violation was never included in Section 632 of the California Penal Code, it was established that it could not be disputed mainly because sexual relations are a form of communication. It can be a communication of love, affection, or a personal way of communicating. A closer look at Section 630 of the California Penal Code, this law intends to protect the right of privacy for people living in the state. Video recording is a high violation of this stature.
For this reason, anyone found guilty of recording another person without their knowledge/consent in a public place or a semi-public area can be charged with violation of personal privacy. This is provided so that the person whose conversation or activity you are recording doesn’t have an objectively rational expectation that you are listening to their conversation or watching them. The judge will rule for or against the person recording depending on the factual circumstances.
If found guilty, the recording person may face criminal prosecution and could also face a civil lawsuit, which might require them to pay for damages incurred by the injured parties.
How About Recorded Evidence?
From the legal explanation provided, it is clear that the law is stringent on secret video recordings and could, therefore, mean that any private records may not be useful as proof in a court of law, even when they have evidence of a committed crime. However, a California courtroom could use a recording from a personal device but only if the tape meets some requirements, for instance, if the recording person gets prior permission from the judge.
What to Do for a Crime Investigator?
Crime investigators usually face a hard time trying to gather evidence after the crime has been committed. Even as they do so, investigators have to ensure that every bit of evidence collected will be admitted in court and thus, has to meet all the legal requirements.
In case of evidence collected through a personal recording device, an investigator may be required to subpoena the recording device. Sometimes this is necessary in cases where the investigator needs to obtain a person’s data including their accounts on social networking sites, photos, access Google Maps, GPS coordinates, and their location history, among other things.
A Personal Video Recording Device Can Condemn or Save You
Mobile devices are increasingly being used nowadays to record and take pictures of almost everything that is happening around. Chances of having some digital evidence in support or defense of a criminal case are usually high. If done well, such evidence could be used to help or condemn a defendant. 
California Criminal Defense Attorneys are aware of how such evidence could be used to save or condemn their clients and so, much caution must be exercised when handling cases where such evidence is being used. In some cases, digital evidence can be presented to prove that the accused is guilty of the offense. In other cases, an attorney can use it as proof to verify that the accused is innocent.  
The prosecutor can also use digital evidence to corroborate a testimony provided by a witness. There are also other instances when the evidence presented can be used to contradict the witness testimony.
Problems with Digital Evidence
The problem with this kind of proof is that it is effortless to manipulate. This explains why the courts are cautious in admitting any evidence from personal recordings. There are many ways through which digital proof can be changed, among them being skimming and hacking. This has become very common nowadays, and the sad bit is that it can also be done remotely, not necessarily by the person holding the device with the evidence.
Again, several legal jurisdictions could affect the use of digital evidence to prosecute a crime. Different states have different laws regarding the use of digital proof, which means that you have to be aware of what the law in your state says before you can think of offering a personal video recording as evidence in court.
Depending on your jurisdiction, the evidence gathered can either be tampered with, rendered ineffective or even destroyed, and this may not help your case. The issue regarding information ownership should be thought about as well. In cases where personal accounts have been hacked, much misleading information may be found on an innocent person’s account, which could be used against them if the data is admitted in a court.
This means that a lot more needs to be done if the prosecutor has to be fair in their judgment regarding any evidence collected from a digital device. Even if they use a person’s phone as evidence in court, there is no way of knowing for sure if all the data found in that phone belongs to the accused or not.
Privacy Customs and Statutes Are Not Very Strict
Privacy laws in California are not very strict, and many people know this already. A person will expect a high level of discretion when making phone calls and sending emails but not so much is expected when sending text messages and using social media sites. There has been an ongoing call by the media and other influential persons on the need to update privacy laws in the US, and it seems that the system is not working as it should. This is evident from the rising issues concerning data breaches.
There are zero cultural expectations regarding digital information. For this reason, it becomes confusing when two sides are divided on what should be used as evidence and what should not be admitted in a court when there is a personal video recording. What is there as privacy regulations can be inferred in more ways than one, and this means that judges and attorneys can be divided on what the law states and what they should do regarding these matters.
However, like mentioned above, California laws have tried to explain the Wiretapping Law further to describe the kind of evidence that should be used in a court and what should be not be used as evidence for or against crime. In cases where a surveillance camera or a mobile device was used to record a video, investigations have to be conducted first, to ascertain whether that piece of evidence is genuine or not.
This means that such evidence could be admitted in some instances, but in others, it may not be admissible. For video recordings to be accepted in court, the police have to investigate and demonstrate to the judge where that video was taken, whose equipment was used to record it, how it was recorded, and how useful that evidence is in the case at hand. If it is established that the video was collected and preserved well and that it was legit, it will be used in a trial. However, this is always dependent on the case at hand and the presiding judge.
When facing a criminal charge, any piece of evidence that could exonerate you from the charges you are facing is always welcome. However, things may not be easy for you if the piece of evidence is a personal video recording. Whether or not that evidence can be used to help your case in a trial is dependent on how it was taken, if it is legit and whether or not the prosecutor will allow it. The best California Criminal Defense Attorneys can educate you on what the law regarding digital evidence states, advise you on what to do, and help you defend your case.

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