In the past year or so, many police departments within Miami-Dade County and Broward County have begun using Body-Worn Cameras. These are devices that officers wear that record what the officer is seeing. In essence, these cameras eliminate confusion and inaccuracy as there is a clear, unobstructed record of what is going on. These cameras can capture an entire interaction with a suspect, and in many cases can video-record a crime in progress.
Prosecutors are required to turn over Body-Worn Camera footage to defense attorneys in all cases in which these devices are used. Not all cases involve the use of Body-Worn Cameras, but as the public becomes more and more aware of these devices (and defense attorneys know to argue that to a jury in a case where no footage exists) police departments are using these devices in nearly every situation. From traffic stops to misdemeanor arrests to serious felonies, you are more likely to see Body-Worn Camera footage used as evidence.
The footage is helpful because it allows prosecutors to see, firsthand, what transpired between the police and the arrestees. If a stop is legally insufficient, an officer will not be able to pad their report if the footage clearly shows that a defendant was stopped without justification. On the other hand, a defendant cannot make a false claim about an arrest if the footage contradicts their statement.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney serving Miami-Dade and Broward.