Legal Considerations to Preserving Video Surveillance Evidence

Author: Carlton Purvis, Published on Feb 11, 2014

Missing surveillance video, even if you did not 'mean' to do it, can lead to sanctions and penalties in court.

We spoke with attorney Mark Berman who specializes in electronic discovery issues, such as video surveillance, about when end users have the duty to preserve footage from being lost, destroyed or degraded, and how to use it.

Determining If Content Should Be Preserved

If someone receives a notice of a litigation or they reasonably should have known the information could be potentially relevant, then that is where the preservation obligation kicks in. The most common cases where these issues come up with video surveillance are personal injury.

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Comments (5)

So, you're in trouble if video evidence exists and you allow it to be destroyed. What if you don't have a clear policy on the length of time you retain video for? Also, I presume nothing happens if you're notified that you should be saving that video after the video has been erased, correct?

No there could still be penalties applied by the court. Even if an organization receives notification after it has been erased, if the organization knew there was evidence there, they could be found negligent. It would be up to a judge to decide to what extent they were negligent though. The policy doesn't matter much if the organization knew it had video, but let it get erased.

Storing video footage can amount to a ton of disk space use. I assume that keeping six months worth of footage would be sufficient, but the questions is, where do you draw the line? I have seen instances where software during installation, when not setup properly, can and will overwrite video footage. I have also had to on several occasions re-install software to reset threshholds for video allocation storage. If threshholds are not setup properly with some video cameras on the initail install, video allocation will overflow to other drives causing huge space issues with the CPU C-Drive, which can cause crashes and video recording to stop.

Creating a storage policy and making sure all steps are followed during the software and allocation steps of the software install are very crucial to the success of the video surveliance. It is a shame to to have something happen and not have video footage when needed due to sloppy software setup and an insuffiecient back up plan.

Rob, my read from this interview is not that one needs to store video forever to protect themselves but that they need to be proactive in exporting video for known events that may lead to litigation. It would seem harder to argue that if an event was only 'discovered' 4 months later, that a user would be responsible for not having video available then.

If I understand this, Berman recomends having someone like an integrator pull the video. What I didn't read is...to what exposure the integrator is then exposed. I can easily see where an integrator is then dragged into a court case and becomes a potential defendant due to no ill intent simply by trying to service the customer. Do I have this all wrong?

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