FAQS: How Does the Use of Lapel Cameras By Police Officers Affect My Criminal Case?

The State of New Mexico and the City of Albuquerque have recently been getting less than stellar national media attention. The State of New Mexico has made the national news by having the distinction of being the state with the second highest crime rate nationally. On the other hand, the City of Albuquerque has received national media attention because its leaders have entered into a consent decree with the United States Department of Justice over the excessive use of force by Albuquerque Police Department officers.

Routine Use of Lapel Cameras by Police Officers Have Made Video Evidence Prevalent

Given these dubious distinctions, it is easy to see how the Albuquerque Police Department has been at the forefront in the use of lapel cameras by police officers and the New Mexico State Police with video cameras in squad cars for use during traffic stops. With such a high crime rate, it is easy to see how, even the best-intentioned police officers can be swept into a situation where excessive force is resorted to and used.

For example, two Albuquerque police officers have been recently charged in the murder of a homeless man during a stand-off, primarily because of the video evidence from an officer’s lapel camera during the incident. The prevalence of video evidence from police encounters has now added a new scope in the prosecution and defense of criminal cases.

Video Evidence Must Be Disclosed Otherwise a Criminal Case May Be Dismissed

The routine use of lapel cameras by the Albuquerque Police Department officers has made it such that during the prosecution of a criminal case, if video evidence is not disclosed, the criminal case may be dismissed. A review of the relevant case law shows us that the standards from a 1981 case now applies to video evidence.

The most commonly cited case is State v. Chouinard, 1981-NMSC-096 (S. Ct. 1981), as it is applied to video evidence. If video evidence is not disclosed, or if it is lost, the trial court must make a determination on the materiality and prejudice of not having the video evidence. With the prevalent use of lapel video cameras by police officers, the absence of the video during the prosecution of the criminal case, can result in a dismissal of the criminal charges.

Lapel Video Evidence is Material and its Absence Can be Prejudicial to the Defendant

This is certainly something that has been unique to Albuquerque, as the police department has been using lapel cameras for some time now. As a matter of course, lapel video evidence is now always requested, in any criminal defense here in Albuquerque. If the officer failed to turn on his lapel camera or if the video evidence is lost prior to trial, the court must either exclude all evidence which the lost video evidence might have impeached (such as officer testimony), or admission with full disclosure of the loss and its relevance and import of the lost evidence.   State v. Chouinard, 1981-NMSC-096 (S. Ct. 1981).

Consult With an Experienced Criminal Law Attorney

As you can see, a criminal arrest has many new aspects, of which you should be aware and prepared for as it happens. If you feel that your arrest is not justified, or if you feel police conduct is not justified, you can always ask if the arresting officer is using his lapel camera. Video evidence of your arrest can be critical for your defense. Real time evidence as the arrest is happening can make your defense clear cut and your charges easier to defend. Criminal defense can be very complicated, and therefore, you should seek competent and experienced counsel to represent you. The attorneys at Collins & Collins, P.C., are experienced in these types of cases and are ready to represent you.

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