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October 04, 2013

Introducing a video tape of an event as evidence in a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding


Introducing a video tape of an event as evidence in a judicial or quasi-judicial proceeding
2013 NY Slip Op 06292, Appellate Division, First Department

The availability of video cameras for employee surveillance is becoming an important issue in terms of employee privacy and the expectation of employees to privacy at the work site. It may also become an issue should a video tape of an incident is introduced in the course of an administrative disciplinary hearing.

In any event, video tape evidence must be presented without modification as the decision in Principe v New York City Dept. of Educ. 94 AD3d 431, demonstrates.

In Principe the Appellate Division said that it appeared that the hearing officer gave “an inordinate amount of credit” to a portion of a video recording that had been altered from its original format so that it appeared frame by frame at one-second intervals rather than its original format of a continuous video recorded in real time. The court commented that this alteration to the videotape made what actually transpired during that incident unclear and equivocal.*

In contrast, in People v Hill, a criminal action, the Appellate Division said that Supreme Court “properly denied defendant's suppression [of video tape evidence] motion, explaining that the surveillance video tape “was adequately authenticated by the testimony of a detective who, while working a second job for a security company, hooked up the surveillance cameras to the video recorder and checked on a daily basis that the system was functioning properly.”

The Appellate Division decided that “The detective's testimony, when viewed in the light of common sense, supports the conclusion that the video tape accurately and completely depicted the events at issue.”

Further, said the court, “that the detective testified to the unaltered condition of the tape, and any gaps in the chain of custody went to the weight to be accorded the evidence, not its admissibility.”

* Decisions concerning use of video records include DiMichel v South Buffalo Railway Company, 80 NY2d 184, reargument denied, Poole v Consolidated Rail Corp, 595 NYS 2d 397, cert den 114 SCt 68, 510 US 816, rearg dism 610 NYS2d 156

The decision is posted on the Internet at: http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2013/2013_06292.htm
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