Hello there and welcome back once again to the Baton Rouge Process Servers podcast. I am your host, Louisiana process server Scott Frank. Let’s begin. Should a process server use a body camera when doing his job and if so, why is it important? In an age where video surveillance has simply become a part of everyday life, and in a world where crime is ever-present, whether civil process servers should wear body cameras has come into question on more than one occasion. Though legislative attempts to require civil process servers to wear body cameras in Illinois swiftly failed, that does not mean that other representatives will not introduce similar bills in the future. Body cameras remain a controversial topic as legislators and servers alike try to navigate their position while weighing the benefits and disadvantages that come with wearing a camera while attempting service. Keep reading to learn some key facts so that you can determine if body cameras are right for you.
When it comes to effectuating service, the courts rely on a service affidavit to prove that service was, in fact, completed — and that it was done so in accordance with the law. Body cameras offer an indisputable record of evidence that can eliminate motions to quash alleging that a defendant was never served. Process servers rely on having a good record of getting the job done to find and secure more business. Having an extra record of the service is helpful not only for the case at hand, but it can make new clients feel more comfortable with hiring a server for additional work.
Another added benefit of wearing a body camera while on serves is that it can be a deterrent for bad behavior and eliminate would-be criminals. If an individual knows that he or she is being recorded, it may encourage them to simply accept the papers without engaging in aggressive behavior. Process server assault is unfortunately a reality that process servers must face, even despite multiple states enacting stiffer punishments on assailants, with some going so far as to make it a felony to assault a process server.
To understand how body cameras could help process servers, one could look to how the United States has handled tensions between police officers and the public, which has escalated in recent years. Many thought a solution to this problem would be to have police officers wear body cameras. While process servers are not peace officers, it is worth noting that 34 states have legislation requiring peace officers to wear them, though their efficacy regarding diminishing instances of excessive force and/or assault on peace officers is still widely debated.
So – what are the disadvantages of wearing a body camera as a process server? Well, although body cameras have the potential to be a benefit to process servers by serving to deter an individual from behaving aggressively, there also exists the possibility that it can aggravate an individual. Someone who sees a body camera may feel an invasion of privacy and feel compelled to act out as a result. One study showed that police officers who wore body cameras experienced a 15% increase in assaults; however, it was unknown whether that was simply a result of increased reporting or an actual uptick in assault. Again, while process servers are not police officers, it is worth considering the parallel use and studies done to try and understand how body cameras affect individuals on the job.
It is also important that process servers who are considering wearing body cameras while attempting service consider both the legality and liability issues that could potentially arise because of wearing them. Not all states are single-consent states when it comes to audio and visual recording privacy laws, and body cameras could potentially violate that law. Violation of recording laws could come with legal consequences for the civil process server as an individual, as well as negative repercussions to the case for which they served the papers. Recording without consent when required could also make a process server vulnerable to a civil lawsuit. Quality body cameras and the proper, secure storage of video footage are an added expense. For many process servers who operate as independent contractors, and even for large companies that would need to supply their employees with this technology, this is an expense that could be out of budget.
There are several issues that plague process servers such as safety concerns and the claim of improper service. While process servers can complete accurate affidavits and take safety measures to reduce the likelihood of these problems, they may fall short. Body cameras provide additional evidence of valid service and can help with possible altercations. But there’s more to using body cameras than just buying and wearing them. Body cameras can potentially serve as a dangerous behavior deterrent. If someone understands that their actions are recorded, they may think twice about threatening or harming a process server.
A body camera may provide an advantage over the competition with a “video affidavit.” Law firms, businesses, or pro se clients may want to take extra precautions to ensure successful service. This video proof may give them the confidence to continue their case, especially when dealing with a difficult defendant. Process servers who offer service with a body camera could find themselves receiving more business than usual. If a body camera doesn’t deter aggressive actions by an individual, the video may help a process server claim threats or violence against them. For instance, a Denver process server had a gun pulled on him, but the individual thankfully had video evidence to support him. This led to the man being arrested on a single felony count of menacing with a weapon.
Down the road, body cameras may become a requirement for proof of service. In Illinois, proposed 2016 legislation would make body cameras mandatory for process servers. Ultimately, the bill failed. However, this proposed legislation shows a potential direction the process serving industry may face.
What do you think? Should body cameras be necessary for process servers or just used at the server’s discretion? Would you voluntarily wear a body camera?
Would you support proposed legislation that required process servers to wear body cameras? If process servers are required to wear body cameras and a process server forgot their camera/it is turned off, could the server be thrown out in court because there’s no video proof? Let us know your opinions in the comments below.
Barsher with fiverr is a copywriter. The foregoing article has simply been presented for informational purposes only. She, and those at Metairie Process Servers, are not attorneys. If you seek further information about this topic, contact an attorney in your local area.