Technology has increasingly changed society’s approach to communication, work, transportation and even… criminal law in Minnesota.

In 2016, Governor Dayton signed a bill into law legislating the use of police body cameras (cams). Body cams were and still are a topic of much discussion with citizen groups, police departments, criminal defense attorneys, prosecuting attorneys and other organizations weighing in with strong opinions. Since the passage of the bill, many, but not all, police departments in Minnesota have implemented the use of police body cameras and several changes have been made to the law.

The current law:

  • Requires police departments that have body cameras to post a policy regarding their usage of the cameras.
  • Allows public input before the police department implements the use of body cameras.
  • Only allows the public to see body camera video if a police officer causes substantial bodily harm or if a person filed in the video wants to make it public.
  • Allows a person in the body cam video to have their image blurred before releasing the footage.

To get the representation that you need, then contact our criminal law firm in Minnesota today.

Who Do Body Cameras Effect?

Criminal defense attorneys and criminal defendants are especially helped by the institution of body cameras by allowing an indisputable source of evidence to be admitted in court. Without body cameras, cases often stem from a “he-said-she-said” disagreement with defendants facing off against police officers about facts in a case. Without body camera evidence, a court is more likely to believe a police officer over an alleged criminal. This means that police have significant power over facts in a case. Especially troubling is the possibility of having no objective proof about police misconduct and abuse.

How Long Do Police Keep Body Camera Footage?

Police must keep body camera footage for 90 days regardless of whether or not they are part of a criminal investigation. The footage must be kept for at least a year if the footage documents the discharge of a police firearm, a police officer causes substantial bodily harm, or a complaint is made against a police officer about the incident recorded by the body cam.  If a person recorded in the footage or a governmental entity wants to keep the footage for purposes related to a trial, the footage must be kept for at least 180 days.

If you have been involved in an incident with police, preserving this kind of evidence is a good reason to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as early as possible.

Are the Body Cameras Always On?

Current legislation does not set specific rules for when the body cams must be turned on or off. This leads to an obvious issue where police officers can turn the camera on or off when it is most convenient for them, taking power away from a potential criminal defendant. What good are body cameras if they can be used at the discretion of police?

However, police departments are required to have a public policy describing when the cameras must be turned on or off.

Hennepin County’s body cam policy can be found here.

Ramsey County’s body cam policy can be found here.

If you have recently had an encounter with the police that you feel was unjustified and would like to have the body camera footage reviewed, then contact Brian Karalus of Karalus Law immediately to get the best criminal defense attorney in Minnesota and Wisconsin on your side.