A car accident law site recently reported that: In a recent unanimous Ohio Supreme Court decision, dashboard camera video recorded by police dash cams in the course of an officer’s duties have become a matter of public record that is available upon request. The ruling was a seven to zero ruling, and while the court did make exceptions for material deemed to be needed in an investigation’s work, they held that these records should be kept open for public examination. The majority opinion, written by Justice Judith French, ruled that these dash cam videos constituted records in the sense that they memorialized the activities of the state’s highway patrol, as well as other police dash cam videos.
Ruling that these recording documented government activities, operations and decisions, whether it was during a traffic stop or car chase, the court felt that this nature of the dash cam videos made them a matter of public record. The case began with a disastrous high speed police pursuit in 2015 along Interstate 71 in the southwestern portion of the state. When the chase ended in a crash, the Cincinnati Enquirer sued the state’s Department of Public Safety for access to the dash cam videos relating to the crash and its aftermath. The state’s highway patrol claimed that a ruling from the 12th Ohio District Court of Appeals, the court that covers most of the appeals in the regions surrounding Cincinnati, held that these videos qualified as confidential investigative materials.click here to read more information about traffic camera use.
However, the state supreme court decided that these videos constituted records of a public agency, and were thus subject to the same rules and restrictions of all other publicly accessible records kept by the state’s law enforcement agencies, and indeed all the state’s public offices. Though Ohio law recognizes that exceptions to these rules can be made, particularly when these records are a part of an ongoing criminal investigation. The state highway patrol cited one of these exceptions when withholding the dash cam videos from the Cincinnati Enquirer, but the state’s supreme court disagreed.
The majority opinion wrote that unless the release of confidential material would create too much risk that investigatory work product would be disclosed to the public, a record that simply involves a law enforcement matter does no inherently become a confidential matter. Though the court decided that this must be decided on a case by case basis, it does open the door to a number of police videos becoming a matter of public record.