Can a video record be evidence in court?
The controversy continues over the question, “Is the video evidence in court?” Can you prove your case or sort out a disputable situation by providing a fragment from the video archive on a flash drive? Will the court accept such evidence? In the article, I will talk about the law’s position and give recommendations for collecting evidence that the court will accept. And at the end of the publication, you will find some non-trivial tips.
What does the law say?
The difficulty is that there is no single document in Russian legislation that would regulate the legality of video surveillance and the provision of video evidence. Accordingly, practising lawyers and the judiciary also disagree. Moreover, there are no unambiguous answers among ordinary citizens-users of video surveillance.
Civil Procedure Code of the Russian Federation
No one can use the evidence base in court proceedings obtained illegally (or violating the current legislation). This is the main idea of article 55 of the Code of Civil Procedure of the Russian Federation (part 2). This rule applies to all types of evidence, and therefore to video recordings and their fragments.
Read the article “Ban on video surveillance. What is it?” There is a lot of useful information here.
According to Russia’s primary and main law, namely Articles 23 and 24, everyone has the right to privacy, and information about it cannot be collected and disseminated without the person’s consent.
What are “consent” and “privacy” in the video surveillance process?
The term “private life” includes all aspects of a person’s life, the manifestations of which concern human’s personally (morally and physically). At the same time, private life manifestations can occur in a personal territory (house, apartment, car) and public places. Therefore, all data on family relationships, including sexual relations, are equated to private life. Often this kind of evidence is not accepted by the court.
- Consent as a legal condition for video surveillance can be manifested in different ways:
- verbally, but this fact cannot be proven;
- in writing, for example, when hiring, an employee signs consent for video surveillance at the workplace;
- if information about privacy has already been publicly available;
- according to the sanctions of law enforcement organizations;
- on the fact of an event that occurred on public places’ territory, while the purpose of video surveillance is not a person’s private life.
Evidence collection guidelines
Evidence in court, including video materials, must be linked to the time, place of the event and the person who recorded it. The video itself does not have this information: the time can be changed, the recording itself can be made in a completely different place, and it isn’t easy to prove the person’s involvement in the video. Read the article “Investigation of Events Using Video Surveillance“.
Expertise is used to link the video to a place. Therefore, it is essential to keep the surveillance camera in the same location and position. A video camera, a recorder and all records are seized for examination.
Ideally, experts use multiple cameras to identify the incident scene to get the full view and the cameras themselves to confirm the events.
It is a big plus for the court if the date and time of filming are integrated into the recorder. In any case, the court will request an examination of the original recording’s authenticity, and the provision of video materials on a flash drive will not have legal force.
Recording duration and continuity
In practice, the video material’s length affects the court’s opinion: the longer the video, the more difficult it is to fake it. Therefore, it is advisable to submit a long and continuous record to the court.
Is the low-quality video good evidence in the court? It is most likely not!
If you need to use records as evidence, please take high image quality care when designing and installing a surveillance system.
Speed of evidence submission
The faster it is, the better it is. This motto is always relevant for the evidence base. However, there is no expiration date/limitation period for videos.
Data Loss Prevention
Law enforcement officials seize video surveillance equipment and video recordings. The presence of witnesses is required procedurally. In this case, the records owner has the right to make copies of the video archive.
In this case, the evidence can be provided without the authorities’ participation and placed in a safe deposit box. Show the video to 2-3 people who will witness and, if necessary, can confirm the data.
Publishing on YouTube
It is advisable to post a recording on YouTube video hosting or social media pages in some cases. Leave the necessary explanations in the comments. At the same time, the comments will reflect the time and date.
Video recording is not evidence in court in every case. In this case, the main point is the legality of obtaining the record. The technical component is also essential (time, date, high-quality image, the proven reference to the place and the person providing evidence). Even if the court accepted the video as evidence, a professional examination of the authenticity is required in all cases without exception.