Can Security Video be Used as Evidence?
In today’s world, it seems like we are always under the scrutiny of big brother. Security video cameras are everywhere. In situations where the cameras are believed to have captured an incident or accident that is relevant to a lawsuit, can the video be obtained under a public records law request or subpoenaed as evidence in your case? Until recently, I would say yes. Florida’s public records laws are very liberal in scope. Courts are usually quite eager to protect the rights of citizens to know what is happening in their government. However, a recent Florida appellate court decision may have changed all that.
In a Florida 5th District Court Of Appeal opinion, security camera video footage taken on a bus was deemed to be exempt from disclosure under the Florida Public Records Act. In the case of Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority d/b/a LYNX v. Post Newsweek Stations Orlando d/b/a WKMG-TV local 6, a news organization sought to inspect video footage captured by cameras on LYNX’s buses. The request appeared to be for a legitimate news gathering operation. The video footage was used and accessed in joint training exercises with local and federal law enforcement officials learning how to prevent, deter, and, when necessary, respond to criminal and terrorist attacks. The cameras were regularly used and accessed by law enforcement in real world situations. In other words, everybody in law enforcement had access to this video footage, except members of the public.
The Central Florida Regional Transportation Authority (CFRTA) successfully argued that what the security system recorded fell within the exemptions under Chapters 281 and 119 pertaining to “records revealing a security system”. The argument that the security footage revealed the capabilities and thus the vulnerabilities of the current system was accepted by the appellate court. From a reading of the literal language contained within Chapter 119 and 281, the Florida 5th District Court of Appeal has now directly held that such security video footage falls within the exemptions and is therefore confidential.
This opinion could be argued to address only requests for copies of video under Chapter 119. I don’t think this opinion could be successfully argued against disclosure of video footage revealing an accident or some other negligence that was the subject of litigation. However, it is possible that the same argument could be successfully made.
Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by Pong