Micah Schwartzbach shares a great perspective on the impact of the new Department of Justice policy on how juries will start hearing cases here in a couple short weeks in one of his most recent posts in his blog Uncuffed. The post FBI to Join Last Century, Start Recording Interviews lays out who the new policy impacts, what provisions it allows for and takes a stab at the question of “not-recording” and one possibly underlying reason that agencies might have wanted the law to not ever go into effect.
Who the Policy Impacts
To recap, the policy which takes effect July 11, 2014, will impact all federal agencies and attorneys, including:
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation
- The Drug Enforcement Administration
- The United States Marshals Service
- The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
What Provisions the Policy Makes
One of the questions that is being tossed around is that of the provisions the new policy makes. Who can be recorded? Those in custody? Witnesses? What is the timeframe in which agents are permitted to record? Are there any preferences for use of audio verses video recording? Are there any exceptions to the policy?
So to answer those questions simply, Schwartzbach lays it out answers in simple terms, with the following answers:
- Who to Record: “Agents should record arrestees whom they have in some kind of holding facility and who haven’t yet been to court for an initial appearance. The policy also ‘encourages’ agents and prosecutors to ‘consider’ recording interviews of suspects who aren’t in custody.”
- Audio vs. Video Recording: “Video recording is the preferred method; audio recording is a fallback.”
- Timeframe to Record: “Recording, which may be either over or covert, is to start at the point that the suspect enters the place of the interview and is to end only once the interview is over.”
- Exceptions: “Exceptions to the policy include situations where the interviewee won’t talk with the tape running and where public-safety or national-security concerns prevail.”
A Troubling Question
Finally, Schwartzbach asks a question about an underlying motive that has been raised before on keeping this policy from coming into effect. He asks whether or not there might have been a general preference held by federal offices to keep recording out of its SOP so that agents and attorneys could fix questioning and shape testimony to fit their needs.
While there is no hard and fast proof that federal agencies or departments want to twist or “mold” witness or suspect testimony to fit their agendas, it’s a question that has continued to come to the forefront up until now.
A Clear Conclusion
What’s clear, regardless, is that video and audio recording will bring a higher level of transparency to all sides, provide additional protection to innocent victims, allow for quicker cases by preventing and resolving conflicting confessions and testimonies and allow for justice to be served in the highest courts.
Get in Compliance with iRecord
Getting your department or office in compliance with the new policy doesn’t have to take long and doesn’t have to be confusing or difficult. iRecord provides state-of-the-art technology and easy-to-use functionality for attorneys and agents alike.
To learn more on Schwartzbach’s take on the new policy and it’s impact, you can click to read his full post FBI to Join Last Century, Start Recording.