Experts say law enforcement body camera use is illegal in some circumstances

SHEILA A. MATHEWS :::

Although no formal stance on the issue of law enforcement officers’ use of body cameras has been taken by the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, the general consensus of its members and leadership is that current Georgia law is concerning.
According to Executive Director Chuck Spahos, the specific code section, O.C.G.A. 16-11-62, Georgia’s eavesdropping law, was not intended to specifically apply to law enforcement officers in the performance of their official duties.
“This was in response to some recordings that were being made of people in dressing rooms, restrooms, tanning beds – that sort of situation,” Spahos said. “At that time, though, nobody really thought about law enforcement and body cameras. Part of that is that this is an advance in technology.”
Despite the fact that lawmakers did not intend to stymie law enforcement use of these devices, the law does not exempt officers from its provisions.
“Our position is that the code section was never intended to prevent law enforcement officers from protecting themselves and the community, but there is no exemption for them,” Spahos said.
The law Spahos referenced states in part, “It shall be unlawful for any person, through the use of any device, without the consent of all persons observed, to observe, photograph, or record the activities of another which occur in any private place and out of public view.”
This law would require officers to obtain the expressed consent of every individual recorded in places where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy such as residences and certain private portions on businesses.
However, he said he does believe the law can be revised to allow body cameras for official law enforcement use.
“The Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council and the District Attorneys’ Council are supportive of an exemption in that code section that would allow law enforcement officers to use body cameras in their official capacity,” he said. “If they can come in your house and observe something, why can’t they record it?”
At this time, and until such an exemption is signed into law, the issue remains troublesome for officers, he said.
“As it now stands, we’re recommending law enforcement to request consent whenever they enter anywhere there’s an expectation of privacy,” he said. “However, sometimes that’s practical and sometimes it’s not. For example, if an officer arrives at the location of a reported domestic disturbance and hears an attack taking place, they’re not going to be able to obtain consent before they take official action.”
When asked if scenarios such as he described and many others regularly encountered by law enforcement officers could result in them facing a felony criminal charge, Spahos did not give a yes or no answer, but rather stated, “I think in any criminal prosecution, you have to look at intent, but when you look at this code section, there is not an exemption for law enforcement officers.”

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Comments

  1. I Think this is awesome and why didn’t they have them sooner. I was in a car wreck June of 2015 . We had hit a light pole I was in the backseat yet I’m the one getting hassled driver didn’t get nothing they didnt even get his right address.

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