In the past decade or so, most - if not all - police departments nationwide mandate that officers wear body worn cameras (BWC) on their person when conducting police activity.
As a result of this policy change, body worn camera footage is now a standard part of the discovery process (the process by which defense attorneys obtain all the evidence the State has against the accused).
Whether its a misdemeanor or a life felony, there will almost always be body worn camera footage available in your case.
When you are charged with a crime, understand that should you take your case to trial, the jury will likely see the body worn camera footage. Depending on how things look could influence the jury's decision.
For instance, in a DUI case - in which body worn camera footage is always available - the jury will get to see for themselves just how "impaired" the accused may have been, and namely, how they performed on the field sobriety exercises (assuming they elected to perform them).
For defense attorneys and clients alike, this is a great way to decide whether to resolve the case by plea or to take the case before a jury. If the accused seems clearly intoxicated, it is probably best to resolve by plea. If the accused seems perfectly sober, it may be proper to take a chance and let a jury decide.
Body worn cameras are a good thing - for everybody. For defense attorneys and their clients, it allows for an informed and evidence-based decision to be made as to whether or not to take a case to trial.
For officers, it promotes transparency in policing, which protects officers against false accusations.
For prosecutors, it allows strong cases to proceed and for weak cases to be disposed.
Full transparency in policing makes everybody safer - the accused, the police, and the community.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney serving South Florida.