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Admissibility of Video Recordings in Public Places: Cassation Criminal Section IV, Judgment No. 21557 of May 30, 2024

The recent judgment by the Court of Cassation, Section IV, on May 30, 2024, No. 21557, addresses the issue of the admissibility of video recordings made by law enforcement in public or publicly accessible places. This decision is a significant reference point regarding the regulation of atypical evidence and its compliance with national and European law.

Context of the Judgment

The Specific Case

The judgment was issued in response to a request for review submitted by the defendant against the order of pre-trial detention for the crime of drug trafficking. The restrictive measure was issued, among other things, based on video recordings made by law enforcement in the gardens of a large condominium, following authorization from the public prosecutor.

Legal Issues Raised

Among the grounds for appeal, the defendant claimed a violation of the law, arguing that the ambient interception and video recordings were ordered by the public prosecutor before the defendant was registered in the record of suspects under Article 335 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Additionally, a constitutional illegitimacy profile of the national provisions (Articles 125 and 189 of the Code of Criminal Procedure) was raised for alleged violation of European privacy protection regulations.

Court of Cassation’s Ruling

Legitimacy of Preliminary Investigations

The Court of Cassation deemed it legitimate to conduct investigations before the registration of the defendant in the record of suspects, emphasizing that such registration could not occur before specific evidence against the defendant emerged. Therefore, the video recordings were made when there were no indications of the defendant’s specific involvement.

Admissibility of Video Recordings

The Supreme Court confirmed the admissibility of video recordings authorized by the public prosecutor, excluding that these were environmental interceptions. According to established jurisprudence, video recordings in public or publicly accessible places made by law enforcement, even on their initiative, are considered atypical evidence and are subject to the regulations of Article 189 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Constitutional Legitimacy and Directive 2022/58/CE

The Court dismissed the raised constitutional legitimacy issues, considering that there was no issue of the admissibility of investigations in the absence of the suspect’s registration. Moreover, it excluded the need for a preliminary referral to the European Court of Justice, finding that the correct application of community law was evident and not subject to reasonable doubt.

Concluding Reflections

Private Dwelling Places and Privacy Rights

The Court differentiated between video recordings in public or publicly accessible places and those in places used for private activities. For the former, no judicial authorization is required, while for the latter, a reasoned order from the public prosecutor or judge is necessary.

Implications for Legal Practice

This judgment confirms the jurisprudential line that video recordings made by law enforcement in public places can be used as evidence without prior judicial authorization. Lawyers must consider this decision when managing defenses and assessing the legality of evidence presented in criminal proceedings.

For further details and insights on the judgment and its practical application, it is advisable to directly consult the full text of the decision and follow jurisprudential developments regarding atypical evidence and privacy protection.