The NJ Supreme Court has ruled that the state open public records law does not cover police dashcam videos.
Advocates for public records transparency had been arguing that dashcams could be used to prove definitively whether or not officers follow or break the law.
The decision stems from a case involving a Tuckerton police officer whose dog allegedly attacked a woman during her 2014 arrest. The officer was indicted, but criminal charges were dismissed by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.
In a dissenting opinion, Associate Justice Barry Albin wrote that, “the operations of our government will be less transparent and our citizenry less informed, which may lead to greater misunderstanding and more distrust between the public and the police.”
As part of the ruling, justices reminded the state Attorney General’s office that it (and the state legislature) still have the power to enact specific rules establishing whether and how police video recordings are made, maintained and released. The Attorney General’s office has already established such protocols for determining when videos involving police use of force—such as fatal shootings—should be released.
In addition, the decision does not limit the ability to have videos released under the common law right of access (CLRA). Unlike open public records law, CLRA requires the government’s interest in keeping the videos sealed be weighed against the interest of the public in seeing them.
If you or a loved one has been cited for a criminal offense in New Jersey, contact an attorney for help. The lawyers of the Rosenblum Law Firm are skilled criminal defense attorneys with experience helping people in a variety of difficult legal situations. Email the Rosenblum Law Firm or call 888-979-7551 today for a free consultation about your case.