Almost everyone today carries a cell phone with them all the time. Videos taken on cell phones are ubiquitous across the internet, and cell phone footage can go viral across social media in minutes. While these videos might be persuasive in the court of public opinion, how much evidentiary value do they have in a legal case? Can they be used against you in a trial if you are accused of committing a crime?
Recording Laws in New Jersey
In general, it is legal to take cell phone videos, photographs, or recordings of conversations or activities in public places in New Jersey. People who are out in public do not have much of an expectation of privacy, and anyone is allowed to take recordings of the public of public spaces if they have a legal right to be there. So, if a person records you doing something in public, like getting into a fight after a car accident or causing a scene in a restaurant, the person recording generally has a right to take that video.
New Jersey is also a one-party consent state (See N.J.S. §§ 2A:156A-3, 4). This means that as long as one party to the recording—usually, the person taking the video or recording—knows about and consents to being recorded, then recording the conversation is legal. This means that someone can record a conversation with you that you believe is private without your knowledge, and it may be able to be used against you. As long as at least one person in a conversation knows they are being recorded, and the conversation is not taking place somewhere traditionally private, like a bathroom or changing room, then there is usually nothing illegal about recording someone without their consent in New Jersey.
Whether or not a video was recorded legally and whether it can be used as evidence in a criminal case are two different things. For a video, photograph, recording, or other piece of evidence to be used against you in a trial, it must meet the standards of the Rules of Evidence.
Admitting Videos Into Evidence in New Jersey
The Rules of Evidence are a set of legal regulations that determine what evidence can be used in a trial and what evidence is inadmissible. For a video to be used in a trial, the prosecution must first make a motion to use it in trial and then authenticate the video as genuine. This usually requires the prosecution to show that the video hasn't been faked or altered, and they must find a witness who was either in the video or made the video that can confirm that the events in the video happened as depicted.
Once the prosecution clears these hurdles, the defense still has an opportunity to object to the video or evidence on multiple grounds. For example, the recording may be too dark, blurry, or confusing to tell what is actually happening. Or, the video might be shot in such a way that it doesn't tell the full story or misconstrues what actually happened. When the recording is unhelpful or will harm the defendant in an unfair way, the judge may decide that it cannot be admitted into evidence.
Get Help From a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been accused of a crime and there is cell phone footage, it is understandable to feel panicked. However, the rules of evidence are complicated, and it can be difficult to admit evidence over an experienced defense attorney's objections. At the Lento Law Firm, New Jersey criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento understands the consequences that you are facing and will work to provide you with the best possible criminal defense. Contact the Lento Law Firm today and schedule an appointment by calling 888.535.3686 now.