When people get into an altercation, things tend to happen quickly and it’s difficult to know what really happened. Who threw the first punch? What direction was he facing? Was it really self-defense? These are all questions that might be asked in a court of law to prove or disprove someone’s innocence. As a society in which nearly everyone carries a smartphone, now more than ever is there a chance that someone took a video recording of the altercation (and has uploaded it to YouTube). The question is: Is that video evidence allowed in court?
The answer is, not surprisingly: it depends.
If you have been charged with assault and battery in Arizona, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney to ensure you have all of the evidence you can get to prove your innocence. If you have access to video of the incident, keep reading to see whether or not it may be useful in court.
Is Video Evidence Admissible in Court?
Generally speaking, yes – video evidence is admissible during a trial, as long as certain criteria are met. First and foremost, the evidence must be relevant to the matter. If you are on trial for stabbing someone and the prosecution shows a video of you at the grocery store the day before, that video is unlikely to be relevant to the matter.
Like any other piece of evidence, the video evidence must be trustworthy. Interestingly, the burden is not on the person who is offering the video evidence to prove that is trustworthy evidence. The burden is placed on the other party to show that it is untrustworthy. For example, let’s say that the friend of a guy you got in a fight with took a video of that fight. In court, your opponent presents only a part of that video, the part where you are hitting his friend and it looks like you started that fight. You know that the video is edited and you actually have surveillance video that shows the entire scene and that you were defending yourself from his attack. You can use that video surveillance to prove that your opponent’s video is untrustworthy.
This scenario actually happened back in 2015 in a case called State v. Steinle. In that case, two people got into a verbal argument, which quickly escalated to physical violence and ultimately a stabbing. Someone shot a video of the whole incident on a cell phone, but cropped it and sent the last 30-seconds or so to a friend and then deleted the original. The court determined that the video was inadmissible because it was incomplete.
Laying a Foundation
Generally, the judge has the discretion on whether to admit or deny evidence, based on certain foundational and verification requirements. This is where it pays to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Your attorney should have the ability to ask the proper questions to ensure that your video is allowed into evidence and is shown to be complete, accurate and worthy of the court’s attention.
If you are facing criminal assault charges, you need an attorney on your side. Call us today to schedule your confidential case consultation.
Posted in: Assault Crimes