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New York Court Rejects Motion to Compel Body Camera Audit Trail Data

Recently, Justice Matthew D'Emic of the Supreme Court of New York for Kings County issued a decision, People v. Larkin, Index No. 774/2019, 2021 NYLJ LEXIS 525 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. May 25, 2021) denying the Defendant's motion to compel the disclosure of audit trails for body camera video footage. Noting that NY CPLR §245.20(10(g), which allows for the disclosure of body camera video, did not mention audit trails or metadata, the Court concluded that the audit trails should not be disclosed because they did not contain information on the crimes the Larkin was charged with, and were not necessary for authentication purposes.

Justice D'Emic rejected the Defendant's position that the audit trails constitute information on the subject matter of the case that was in the possession, custody and control of the State. He cited Appellate Division cases in which the disclosure of audit trail data was made contingent on whether or not it was necessary for authentication, or was related to the subject matter of a case. Chain of custody issues arise with respect to evidence in the custody of the police. "The audit trails sought by the defendant are created and maintained by Axon --- a private company over which neither the NYPD nor the People have direction or control. Consequently, the audit trails cannot be deemed to fall within the purview of CPL §245.20 under the theory that they are but one link in the chain of custody record." Id. at *8. He cited rulings holding that audio of taped conversations could be admitted without establishing a chain of custody, because conversations are unique and the participants can testify to their authenticity.

An affidavit submitted by a forensic expert on behalf of Larkin attesting to the essential role audit trails play in verifying electronic evidence was not deemed to be sufficient to establish them as being necessary for authentication. The Defendant made no showing that the video had been tampered with or that they would have information not contained in the video itself.

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