Home security camera footage can be, and is, used in court. But it’s important to recognize that it isn’t necessarily the smoking gun you imagine it to be, nor is it considered indisputable.
In this article, we’ll explore whether home security cameras be used in court and what precautions must be taken when using home security camera footage in court.
Can Home CCTV Be Used in Court?
Should a criminal investigation or insurance policy claim be opened, the footage can be used in court or as part of the claim as evidence.
Likewise, if a home warranty claim were made by a homeowner due to a neighbor’s tree falling onto a roof, or an arson attack causing a fire, the footage can be used to prove the damage was not caused by the homeowner.
However, there are circumstances where home CCTV footage is not admissible in court.
Home security camera’s can’t be used in court if the footage is:
- Recorded unlawfully
- Obtained unlawfully by anyone other than the owner of the footage
- Tampered with in any way
- Presented without adequate data to prove it is an original file
Is CCTV Legal in the US?
In short, yes, CCTV is legal in the US. This applies to home security camera footage, private business premise footage, and public surveillance.
This means that the camera should not be fitted anywhere that breaches a person’s privacy.
While this can be open to interpretation, it generally means not placing a camera in areas where people shower, get changed, use the toilet, or sleep without consent.
Is Surveillance Admissible in Court?
Surveillance footage is admissible in court so long as certain criteria are met.
Home security camera footage is admissible in court if it is:
- Lawfully recorded – The footage should be lawfully recorded in the sense that it wasn’t taken by a hidden camera installed without consent (in a US state that requires consent), or installed in breach of US privacy laws
- Legally obtained – If home CCTV footage is presented as part of a police investigation, it must be obtained via a warrant or willingly provided by the owner of the footage
- Original – The file must have chain of custody, which means it must be presented in its original form with sufficient evidence that it has not been tampered with
- Correctly timestamped – Home security footage must also contain correct timestamping, with no errors, inaccuracies, or gaps for it to be considered reliable and admissible in US court
Can You Use Hidden Camera Evidence in Court?
Many US states have specific laws around the recording and use of home security camera footage. Should the footage be taken unlawfully without sufficient consent, this can impact whether it can be used in court or not.
At the time of writing, 14 states have specific rules around the use of hidden home security cameras.
Some states specify that hidden cameras are allowed with consent, while others are clear that hidden cameras are not allowed, regardless of consent.
The table below shows the states with specified home security camera rules.
|State||Are Hidden Video Cameras Allowed Without One-Party Consent?||Are Hidden Video Cameras Allowed With Consent?|
|Alabama||No – unless the footage is taken in a public place||No|
What are Privacy Laws on Home Security Cameras?
Regardless of the specific state rules, all US citizens are granted a reasonable expectation of privacy.
A home security camera usually breaches the expectation of privacy if it’s installed in a bathroom, bedroom, changing room, or hotel room without consent.
In states where there are no specific laws around the use of hidden cameras, property owners should check with their local state departments, or speak to a personal lawyer about what’s allowed and what’s not allowed.
In all instances where footage might be used in court, legal counsel should be sought before doing so.
Home security camera footage can be used in court and often is.
However, it’s important to abide by privacy and consent laws in your state before recording footage that you want to use as part of a criminal investigation. You should always consult a lawyer before presenting security camera footage to court as evidence