Does your video have to conform to trial-ready standards of proof to have a meaningful impact?
While it is important for concerned citizens to understand how to document ‘bullet-proof’ video, in most cases even an imperfect video can have a major impact. Remember that it’s not always about taking the video to court and having to pass a strict ‘trial-ready’ standard of proof. Your video can help start legal proceedings, advocate for yourself or for someone else, raise awareness, and even trigger congressional hearings, without ever seeing the inside of a court room.
In today’s instalment, we will discuss how imperfect video can help in the criminal justice process.
If your video is to be submitted to a trial as evidence, it must usually meet a strict standard of proof in most jurisdictions. This usually means that the video must be proven to be completely authentic and relevant. However, it is important to understand that a trial with a judge is just one part of a long sequence of events that take place in the criminal justice process.
Most people are familiar with these stages of the criminal justice process due to the many popular police crime dramas on TV, so some of this language might be familiar. Since the presumption of innocence is still (rightly) an important principle in almost any major criminal justice system, courts have developed an escalating scale for standards of proof.
The greater the restriction to an individual’s freedom, the higher the required standard.
The standard of proof escalates in proportion to the restriction placed on an individual’s freedom, and applies to evidence as well. Note that the standard of “Beyond a reasonable doubt” does not appear in this scale until Step #8: Trial. Before that, the standard is mostly “Reasonable grounds to believe”. So even before getting to a trial, if investigators can reasonably believe that your video is authentic and relevant, it can help cause:
- An investigation
- A determination that a crime has in fact been committed
- Identification of a suspect
- An arrest of a suspect
These are all real, tangible results that your video can help produce, without ever reaching a trial-ready standard or even a trial. So err on the side of capturing video, it can only help bring the truth to the forefront.