In custody deaths rose at record heights during the pandemic in 2020. Rising over three times the previous years’ numbers, many deaths were caused from natural events, such as COVID19, and many were reported from inadequate environments such as filthy surroundings, neglectful medical care, and abuse from staff. Today, death rates are still elevated in California, even years after the harshest period of the pandemic. When an inmate dies from unnatural conditions or even use of excessive force, family members can feel not only a deep loss, but a deep sense of injustice. When a loved one dies wrongfully inside a jail or detainment, pursuing fairness may feel like a powerless endeavor, but it doesn’t have to be. There are ways to prove wrongful death through video footage that can help with a lawsuit.

All correctional officers in California are required to wear body cameras while working with inmates, as of 2020, says The Crime Report. This is an ongoing effort to end in-custody abuse, boost accountability, and hopefully create a “game-changing” effect on the culture within the prison system, says The San Francisco Chronicle. Because of this law, footage of all activity involving inmates is recorded, and therefore available to civilians under certain circumstances.

police body camera

Credit: Ryan Johnson | CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

 

Previously, getting access to body camera or surveillance camera footage was difficult because the laws were murky, at best, and ultimately up to law enforcement agencies to release them.

Although body cam footage is not immediately accessible to the public, obtaining footage became easier when Assembly Bill 748 was passed in 2019, according to ABC7 News. After having no consistent laws on body cam footage, the California law now requires the release of footage within a 45 day window after an offense has occurred. This could mean the officer in question used fire shots or if a death was caused by use of force, says the article. Because of this law, California has one of the most transparent policies on releasing body camera footage.

 

Making Your Body Cam Footage Request

To access body camera or surveillance footage, a request must be made to a Public Records Act coordinator, who then determines if the “requested records are subject to public disclosure,” says the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Once a request is received, the coordinator must respond within 10 days. If any or all records are denied release, it must be explained in a written response. If the request is approved, applicants can receive the footage through the CDRC Public Records Portal. There is only a cost for footage when it needs to be obtained on a CD or DVD. Exceptions to release include securing the safety of officers and witnesses, especially in cases of minors, or if footage could cause interference with ongoing investigations.

 

Help for Your Loved One: In-Custody Death or Severe Injury Attorney

Obtaining footage could help in a lawsuit, fighting for your loved one. If you believe a member of your family has wrongfully died within the jail system in-custody or during detainment, there are options. You have rights to access footage and fight for the justice you are looking for. We want to hear your case: please contact us today.