The exponential growth of cellphone cameras and video surveillance in recent years has proven to be a two-edged sword. There is no question that it can help to identify crimes that are committed, and even give some idea of who the perpetrators were. But the results can also be disastrous for those who don’t know that the camera is rolling.

How Not to Behave on a Bus

A video capturing the singing of a racist fraternity song on a bus in 2015 resulted in expulsions, bad publicity for the school and fraternity involved, and a tearful apology from the leader of the song. In the wake of this incident, the court of public opinion–as played out in the realm of social media–swiftly rendered its judgment. Those who sang the song made a terrible mistake, and they may not ever fully recover from the stigma that the incident has attached to them.

This incident appeared to take place on a private charter bus, and was not recorded by any device installed on the bus itself. Those on the bus may not have been aware they were being filmed by an individual with a cellphone, and they almost certainly would not have signed a release, allowing the recording to be shared online. Any privacy rights these individuals may have had were shoved aside, and the recording went viral online. Life as they knew it was over, as soon as that happened.

Public buses, on the other hand, have largely been installed with cameras in recent years. The realization that everything happening on a bus ride can now be preserved as evidence, for use in either criminal or civil trials, has no doubt led to changes in behavior on public transportation. Video evidence can also be used to settle disputes about events that did–or did not–take place on the bus.

Allegations vs. Video Footage

In January of 2016, college students reported that they had been the victims of a racially-motivated attack on a public bus. The event sparked an outraged response from other university students, and an investigation was promptly launched. The best evidence to get to the bottom of what happened, of course, came from the camera that was on board the bus at the time.

The video does not appear to corroborate the story that the alleged victims told when they first reported the incident. Rather, the footage retrieved by authorities seems to indicate that the purported victims may have been the aggressors in the incident. Whether or not these students were aware of the fact that they were being videotaped, the bus company has the right to videotape both their property and their passengers. Those not wanting to be videotaped while riding a public bus must look for other forms of transportation, instead.

The students, who initially held themselves out as being victims, now find themselves in a different situation. Since the video evidence may not support their version of events, it exposes them to charges of filing an incorrect or fraudulent police report. While they have the right to challenge these charges in court, a camera that could have been their friend, under different circumstances, is now their biggest problem.

A Matter of Protection

Whether you are using an ATM, attending a show at a theater, or merely walking along the sidewalk, there is a always a strong possibility you are being watched and recorded. Had the students making claims about what happened to them on the bus been aware of this, perhaps the situation could have been avoided, altogether.

The existence of video evidence, if any, can be critical for determining either guilt or innocence. Have a criminal charge in New York? Let the AX criminal team offer you a free case consultation anytime; (518) 675-3094.

DISCLAIMER: The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem. Corporate offices for Nave + Associates (formerly Anelli Nave) are located at 432 N. Franklin Street, Suite 80, Syracuse, NY 13204; Telephone No.: 1-866-792-7800. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Attorney Advertising.