Video evidence is any form of video used as admissible evidence in a court of law. It can be recorded on video home system (VHS) or in digital format. There has been a rise in using both types of video as evidence in court cases. This has led to debates on its proper use.
Video evidence can come in many different formats. Most often, the VHS video footage from a security camera is used as evidence of a crime in a public place. There has also been a rise of using video caught on digital cameras as evidence during court trials. With the rise of handheld video devices, amateurs who found themselves unintentionally at the scene of a crime can capture what happened on phones, digital cameras or laptop computers. Sometimes these videos end up on public sites.
In order to be admissible in a court of law, video evidence has to undergo a strict handling procedure. The name of whoever handles the evidence is cataloged, and the video is stored in a climate-controlled place—this is to ensure that it is not altered in any way. If the handling procedure is not followed, the video tape can be considered inadmissible evidence, even if it is relevant to the case.
The images taken by a security camera or mobile phone are often grainy. This makes it difficult for firm conclusions to be drawn from the evidence on the video tape. In response to this problem, video evidence can be sent to a crime lab, where licensed technicians use software to filter out the "noise" and get a clear image.
As video editing software becomes more prevalent, there have been concerns about the true reliability of video evidence. Many security cameras insert a code onto the video frame by frame, so that if any are removed or re-cut, it will be immediately obvious that the code's numbers are out of synchronization. Upon seizure, a video will also be held in write-only mode or have its "record" button removed so it cannot be wiped or recorded over.
The psychological impact of using video evidence is often discussed by lawmakers. Visual images are considered the most compelling evidence in a case, but they still only tell one aspect of the story. If a video does not have sound or is taken at an angle, it may not be an accurate representation of what actually happened—yet, it can sway a jury to making a decision.