Recently, video cameras have been installed in several traffic intersections and near major parks and schools in the Chicago area. In stores, security cameras are as commonplace as employees. Additionally, many residences are increasingly promoting the value of cameras for the safety of their residents. While this may seem unsettling from a 1984-esque perspective, it can also have benefits. When an accident occurs and it is captured on camera, such evidence may be obtained.
The standard for the admission of such evidence varies by state so it is important to consult with local counsel. Generally, video evidence is admitted under the “silent witness” theory. In Illinois, some standards to consider for such evidence are:
- The device’s capability for recording and general reliability;
- The competency of the operator;
- Proper operation of the device;
- The chain of custody of the recording;
- The identification of the location and parties in the recording; and
- An explanation of the copy process, if relevant.
Ultimately, the accuracy and reliability of the evidence needs to be established to properly lay the foundation for the introduction of such evidence. Note that the above are general guidelines are not strict rules.
From a practice perspective, attorneys should try to obtain any video evidence as soon as possible. In many instances, such as retail establishments, such evidence may be erased if an attempt to preserve the evidence is not immediately requested. Attorneys should review any video evidence before allowing clients to submit to any deposition or any testimony under oath. This allows a deponent the opportunity to refresh their memory of the incident and to give a testimony that will be consistent.
In dealing with obtaining video evidence from police departments, there are special circumstances when video evidence can be requested, so it is important to follow local laws regarding this matter.
Evidence in Illinois must satisfy the Illinois Rules of Evidence. Modeled after the Federal Rules, these standards help to avoid unnecessary, irrelevant, or prejudicial evidence to be presented during trial. At its core, evidence must be relevant, meaning it must tend to make an issue more or less probable. Rules 1001-1008 cover the admission of visual evidence in Illinois courts. Typically the original evidence of the recording is the best evidence unless there is a legitimate reason for the evidence not being available, such as the recording being destroyed through no fault of the party seeking to introduce the copy. It is the job of the trier of fact to determine the weight given to the evidence.
This article is for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice. Do not rely on the above information as all cases are different and different laws apply to different cases. Consult an attorney in your area for further guidance.