Jan. 18, 2013
Fixing the Loophole in Using Red Light Camera Evidence in Criminal Investigations: House Bill 1047: State law currently restricts the use of traffic safety camera and toll system still photos and video footage (including red light cameras) from being used for any other purpose but to prove traffic violations meant to be captured by the traffic control cameras. The restriction was meant to prevent the misuse of photos and footage in violation of peoples’ privacy rights. Although well intentioned, the restriction is far too strict because it prohibits the police from seeking a search warrant, which would have to be approved by a Judge, in order to view the photos and footage in the course of a criminal investigation.
Twice in the last year, Seattle Police homicide detectives have been prohibited from obtaining traffic control camera footage in the course of an unsolved homicide investigation. Even if the police had sought and obtained a search warrant approved by a Judge, the police would be prohibited from using the evidence of criminal wrongdoing at trial.
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The proposed bill allows, “the records, photographs, digital photographs, microphotographs, videotapes, and other recorded images,” to be available to law enforcement pursuant to a lawfully-issued search warrant. The King County Police Chiefs’ Association, the Washington Association of the Prosecuting Attorneys and dozens of police agencies support this small but extremely important amendment to state law. A hearing on HB 1047 is set for January 23 at 1:30 p.m. before the House Public Safety Committee at the Washington State Legislature.