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In today’s day and age, the use of police body cameras is constantly under scrutiny. 

In the state of Colorado (and in every other U.S. state), police body camera footage is used in many criminal cases. However, that doesn’t mean that things always work out as planned. 

For example, body camera footage may show that you were acting in self-defense or that a police officer attacked you for no reason.

On the other hand, body camera footage may clearly show that you violated the law, such as if you failed a field sobriety test or breathalyzer test. 

In Colorado, as well as almost every other part of the country, police body cameras have become a standard piece of equipment along with items such as a revolver and bullet proof vest. What role does this common piece of technology play in Colorado criminal courts and how can it affect your case?

How are body cameras used by police in Colorado?

There’s a right and a wrong way to use a body camera, and every police officer is trained accordingly. But of course, that doesn’t mean they always do the right thing.

Officers in the Denver Police Department, for example, should begin to record as they head towards an in-progress crime. 

Here are some (but not all) of the times when the Denver Police Department requires the activation of a body camera:

  • While traveling to in-progress calls
  • During traffic stops
  • During foot chases 
  • When pursuing another vehicle 
  • When giving Miranda Rights 
  • When searching property without a warrant
  • During crisis intervention team calls
  • While taking statements, such as from suspects, victims, or witnesses

In addition to the above requirements, every police officer has the discretion to turn their body camera on when they best see fit.

What is the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) and how does it apply to police body cameras?

Arrest being captured by police body camera.
Arrest footage captured by a police body camera is legally required to be available to the public under the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act (CCJRA).


The Colorado Secretary of State website defines the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) as follows:

The Colorado Open Records Act “CORA” requires that most public records be available to the public. A “public record” includes most writings made, maintained, or kept by our office. However, there are some exceptions concerning records made available under CORA.

CORA is in place to govern when the public has access to police body camera footage. 

In Colorado, body camera recordings fall under the umbrella of “criminal justice records.” This means that evidence from body cameras is placed under the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act (CCJRA).

Due to the fact that body cameras collect official police actions, such as arrests, the footage is required by law to be made available to the public as outlined by the CCJRA. However, in the event that the footage is considered “unofficial actions,” this requirement may not apply.

Using police body camera footage as evidence in Colorado criminal cases

If you’re charged with a crime in Colorado, your experienced Denver criminal attorney will do whatever it takes to dig up evidence to prevent a conviction or reduce the penalties against you. This includes using police body camera footage as evidence in your favor.

With each passing year, police body camera video evidence is becoming more common in Colorado’s court system. It’s considered in the same light as all other types of evidence, such as photographs. 

In order for body camera footage to be submitted for evidence during a trial in Colorado, it must be relevant to the issues before the court. Also, the footage requires authentication before making its way to the jury.

Make sure you hire a Denver criminal defense attorney who is experienced in handling this type of evidence to give you the best odds of success in court.

Should police body camera footage be part of your criminal defense strategy?

While this is ultimately a question for your Denver criminal defense attorney, police body camera footage that works in your favor should always be considered as part of your legal strategy. 

After all, it could be the difference between avoiding a conviction and finding yourself in prison and/or facing other serious consequences.

But remember, there’s more to body camera footage than meets the eye. There’s a lot to take into consideration, such as:

  • The quality of the footage
  • The angles at which the video was shot
  • How the jury might interpret what they see (they may not see the video in the same way as you)

Your Denver criminal attorney should be skilled at explaining things such as camera perspective bias to the jury in order to sway their decision in your favor.

Protect your rights with a Denver criminal attorney

Just because you’re charged with a crime doesn’t mean you’ll be convicted. And that’s why it’s so important to understand the types of evidence that can work in your favor, such as police body camera footage. It’s also important to understand the impact on your criminal case whenever body camera evidence is compromised. For example:

  • Body camera footage that disappears
  • Body camera footage that is destroyed before it’s entered as evidence
  • A police officer who didn’t turn on their camera or turned it off during an arrest or investigation

In any of these examples, your Denver criminal defense attorney will know how to adjust the legal strategy to maintain a strong criminal case. If you’re facing criminal charges in Colorado and would like to know more about using police body camera footage in your case, contact the Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani, LLC online or give us a call today to schedule your free consultation.


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