Confidential Informants, Motions to Reveal Identity, and Discovery: Part III, How to Handle the Video

This is Part III of a multi-part series on confidential informants. Earlier posts focused on the foundational concepts of U.S. v. Roviaro, 353 U.S. 53 (1957), here, and the applicable North Carolina statutes here. Today’s post explores the novel issues that arise as more and more confidential informant (“CI”) interactions are recorded on video.

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Surveillance Video- When It Comes In and When It Doesn’t

Video evidence authentication has received a fair amount of treatment on this blog. The topic remains an area of practical significance given the prevalence of video evidence in criminal trials and how common it is for the prosecution’s case to hinge on the admission of video. We are increasingly a video-focused society. Between home security cam, doorbell cam, body-worn cam, in-car cam, pole cam, and even parking lot cam, juries increasingly expect to see video, whether the incident in question occurred outside a home, near a business, or on the roadside.

In this post, I will focus on surveillance video.

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New Video Tech, Same Old Rules

My colleagues and predecessors here at the School of Government have written about video evidence many times over the years, summarizing the basic rules and significant cases in posts available here, here, here, here, and here.

Recently, though, I’ve been getting questions about a relatively new but increasingly common type of video evidence: high-tech, app-controlled, and remotely stored videos taken by automated devices ranging from doorbell cameras to wifi-enabled, cloud-connected, teddy bear spy cams. Do the old rules still work the same way for these new video tools? Is it substantive or illustrative evidence? If it’s substantive, how is it authenticated? Is a lay witness qualified to testify about how these cameras work? Does the proponent need the original video? Come to think of it, what is the “original” of a video that exists only as bits of data floating somewhere in the cloud…?

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An Appreciation of the Many Roles and Responsibilities of a District Court Judge

In December, the School of Government held the first week of orientation for new district court judges. The class included thirty-one new judges. Most of the judges took the bench January 1, though a handful were sworn in last year to fill vacancies by gubernatorial appointment. One of the challenges in creating an orientation program … Read more

Pole Camera Surveillance Under the Fourth Amendment

Placing a video camera on a utility pole and conducting surveillance can be a useful law enforcement tool to gather information without requiring an in-person presence by officers at all times. But this tool may be subject to the Fourth Amendment restrictions. This post reviews the evolving case law, particularly since the United States Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945 (2012).

Jeff Welty in a 2013 post reviewed video surveillance generally, not just pole cameras, and discussed Jones and the few cases decided in light of its ruling. This post, after reviewing Jones, will discuss a few pole camera cases decided in federal courts since his post and whether officers should seek approval from a court before conducting pole camera surveillance.

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One Case, Two Ways of Authenticating Video

Technologists tell us that we are in the age of ubiquitous video. It seems that almost everything is being recorded. Naturally, this means that more and more video recordings are being introduced in court. A recent decision by the court of appeals is a helpful reminder of the two primary methods of authenticating video.

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What to Expect After a Traffic Stop: The Movie

As mentioned in a recent News Roundup, the Raleigh Police Department (RPD) produced a short video entitled “Traffic Stops: What to Expect as a Motorist,” instructing drivers who have been pulled over by law enforcement on how they should behave. It appears that the RPD had the laudable goal of educating the public to ensure the safety of both officers and motorists. Captain Bruce, the officer who narrates the video, states that “by following a few basic steps, the experience can progress without misunderstanding or conflict.” The video is garnering attention: As of today, it has received 8,446 views on YouTube, with “likes” outweighing “dislikes” 21 to 15. This blog offers legal commentary on a few of the points made in the video, using a scale of green light for what appear to be sound instructions, yellow light for instructions that may raise questions, and red light for an instruction that may prove misleading to citizens.

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Recent Case on Authentication of Surveillance Video

More and more criminal cases involve video evidence, whether from patrol car dash cameras, store surveillance cameras, witness cell phone cameras, or, in the near future, wearable cameras. It’s important to know the authentication requirements for such evidence. A recent court of appeals case sets a high bar for admissibility.

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Police Use of New Recording Technologies

There’s been quite a buzz lately about Google Glass, a “wearable computer” that looks like a pair of eyeglasses but that uses the lenses as transparent screens to display information to the user. (For example, the user might have CNN headlines constantly scrolling on the edge of the screen, or might have the glasses show … Read more