Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal


As public access to inexpensive and versatile "camcorders" grows, U.S. courts face a new source of crime evidence. Through a survey of recent examples, including the Rodney King beating, this note addresses the potential of private citizens' videotapes of criminal acts. Videotapes may empower citizens to fight crime safely and legally, as courts will probably receive such videotaped evidence favorably. However, with the increasing means and incentives for "video vigilantism" comes a risk of invasions of privacy, as technology outpaces the law. Limited neither by the Fourth Amendment nor the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, citizens' videotapes can introduce into court what government surveillance and private eavesdropping cannot. The author concludes by suggesting that videotapes be regulated by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.