Monday, September 24, 2018
Body Cameras for Process Servers
There are several issues that plague process servers such as safety concerns and the claim of improper service. While process servers can complete accurate affidavits and take safety measures to reduce the likelihood of these problems, they may fall short. Body cameras provide additional evidence of valid service and can help with possible altercations. But there’s more to using body cameras than just buying and wearing them.
Body Camera Pros
Proof of service
With video evidence, a defendant cannot claim that they were not served papers. Should an individual claim that documents were not served or that service was improper, a body camera can support a process server’s work.
This validated proof of service may help the judicial system reduce the number of cases due to improper service and resolve any false claims about the service never taking place.
Form of Defense
Body cameras can potentially serve as a dangerous behavior deterrent. If someone understands that their actions are recorded, they may think twice about threatening or harming a process server.
A body camera may provide an advantage over the competition with a “video affidavit.” Law firms, businesses, or pro se clients may want to take extra precautions to ensure successful service. This video proof may give them the confidence to continue their case, especially when dealing with a difficult defendant. Process servers who offer service with a body camera could find themselves receiving more business than usual.
Problems with Upset Servees
If a body camera doesn’t deter aggressive actions by an individual, the video may help a process server claim threats or violence against them. For instance, a Denver process server had a gun pulled on him but the individual thankfully had video evidence to support him. This led to the man being arrested on a single felony count of menacing with a weapon.
Additionally, a process server was exonerated from false charges of harming a police officer he was trying to serve because of video proof. Videos may not only provide proof of service, but allow process servers peace of mind.
Body Camera Cons
Body camera videos are for professional use only. One should take care to protect its integrity. Do not use the video to shame individuals accepting papers. All process servers should treat those they serve with respect. Video evidence should only be seen if the service was contested or harassing behavior taken place.
Privacy & Video Recording Laws
Video recording consent laws vary throughout the United States. Individuals have a right to a certain amount of privacy and video recording in specific situations is frowned upon. Most, if not all, states forbid filming or photographing nude or partially nude individuals, particularly within areas where they would expect to have privacy. Therefore, if you are considering using a body camera, be sure to check your state’s applicable laws and even consider contacting a lawyer to see what they recommend and whether there are any limitations you will have to consider.
Refusal to be Recorded
If a body camera is spotted, an individual may not accept papers and retreat out of view should they not want to be recorded. Fear of leaked footage or bad intentions may cause a person to negatively react and refuse service. While some people may see a camera and stop threatening actions, others may be provoked by its presence and attempt to aggressively obtain the camera, potentially initiating violence.
Since invalid service may be claimed at any time, the best way to use video evidence is to store it for the length of a case. However, cases may last years, requiring extensive storage and backups. Additionally, process servers will have to keep track of the status of cases, requiring more follow-up and effort. Securely storing these videos is costly and requires more work.
Down the road, body cameras may become a requirement for proof of service. In Illinois, proposed 2016 legislation would make body cameras mandatory for process servers. Ultimately, the bill failed. However, this proposed legislation shows a potential direction the process serving industry may face.
What do you think? Should body cameras be necessary for process servers or just used at the server’s discretion? Would you voluntarily wear a body camera?
Would you support proposed legislation that required process servers to wear body cameras? If process servers are required to wear body cameras and a process server forgot their camera/it is turned off, could the serve be thrown out in court because there’s not video proof? Let us know your opinions in the comments below.