132-1.4A. Law enforcement agency recordings.

(a) Definitions. - The following definitions apply in this section:

(1) Body-worn camera. - An operational video or digital camera or other electronic device, including a microphone or other mechanism for allowing audio capture, affixed to the uniform or person of law enforcement agency personnel and positioned in a way that allows the camera or device to capture interactions the law enforcement agency personnel has with others.

(2) Custodial law enforcement agency. - The law enforcement agency that owns or leases or whose personnel operates the equipment that created the recording at the time the recording was made.

(3) Dashboard camera. - A device or system installed or used in a law enforcement agency vehicle that electronically records images or audio depicting interaction with others by law enforcement agency personnel. This term does not include body-worn cameras.

(4) Disclose or disclosure. - To make a recording available for viewing or listening to by the person requesting disclosure, at a time and location chosen by the custodial law enforcement agency. This term does not include the release of a recording.

(5) Personal representative. - A parent, court-appointed guardian, spouse, or attorney of a person whose image or voice is in the recording. If a person whose image or voice is in the recording is deceased, the term also means the personal representative of the estate of the deceased person; the deceased person's surviving spouse, parent, or adult child; the deceased person's attorney; or the parent or guardian of a surviving minor child of the deceased.

(6) Recording. - A visual, audio, or visual and audio recording captured by a body-worn camera, a dashboard camera, or any other video or audio recording device operated by or on behalf of a law enforcement agency or law enforcement agency personnel when carrying out law enforcement responsibilities. This term does not include any video or audio recordings of interviews regarding agency internal investigations or interviews or interrogations of suspects or witnesses.

(7) Release. - To provide a copy of a recording.

(b) Public Record and Personnel Record Classification. - Recordings are not public records as defined by G.S. 132-1. Recordings are not personnel records as defined in Part 7 of Chapter 126 of the General Statutes, G.S. 160A-168, or G.S. 153A-98.

(c) Disclosure; General. - Recordings in the custody of a law enforcement agency shall be disclosed only as provided by this section. A person requesting disclosure of a recording must make a written request to the head of the custodial law enforcement agency that states the date and approximate time of the activity captured in the recording or otherwise identifies the activity with reasonable particularity sufficient to identify the recording to which the request refers.

The head of the custodial law enforcement agency may only disclose a recording to the following:

(1) A person whose image or voice is in the recording.

(2) A personal representative of an adult person whose image or voice is in the recording, if the adult person has consented to the disclosure.

(3) A personal representative of a minor or of an adult person under lawful guardianship whose image or voice is in the recording.

(4) A personal representative of a deceased person whose image or voice is in the recording.

(5) A personal representative of an adult person who is incapacitated and unable to provide consent to disclosure.

When disclosing the recording, the law enforcement agency shall disclose only those portions of the recording that are relevant to the person's request. A person who receives disclosure pursuant to this subsection shall not record or copy the recording.

(d) Disclosure; Factors for Consideration. - Upon receipt of the written request for disclosure, as promptly as possible, the custodial law enforcement agency must either disclose the portion of the recording relevant to the person's request or notify the requestor of the custodial law enforcement agency's decision not to disclose the recording to the requestor.

The custodial law enforcement agency may consider any of the following factors in determining if a recording is disclosed:

(1) If the person requesting disclosure of the recording is a person authorized to receive disclosure pursuant to subsection (c) of this section.

(2) If the recording contains information that is otherwise confidential or exempt from disclosure or release under State or federal law.

(3) If disclosure would reveal information regarding a person that is of a highly sensitive personal nature.

(4) If disclosure may harm the reputation or jeopardize the safety of a person.

(5) If disclosure would create a serious threat to the fair, impartial, and orderly administration of justice.

(6) If confidentiality is necessary to protect either an active or inactive internal or criminal investigation or potential internal or criminal investigation.

(e) Appeal of Disclosure Denial. - If a law enforcement agency denies disclosure pursuant to subsection (d) of this section, or has failed to provide disclosure more than three business days after the request for disclosure, the person seeking disclosure may apply to the superior court in any county where any portion of the recording was made for a review of the denial of disclosure. The court may conduct an in-camera review of the recording. The court may order the disclosure of the recording only if the court finds that the law enforcement agency abused its discretion in denying the request for disclosure. The court may only order disclosure of those portions of the recording that are relevant to the person's request. A person who receives disclosure pursuant to this subsection shall not record or copy the recording. An order issued pursuant to this subsection may not order the release of the recording.

In any proceeding pursuant to this subsection, the following persons shall be notified and those persons, or their designated representative, shall be given an opportunity to be heard at any proceeding: (i) the head of the custodial law enforcement agency, (ii) any law enforcement agency personnel whose image or voice is in the recording and the head of that person's employing law enforcement agency, and (iii) the District Attorney. Actions brought pursuant to this subsection shall be set down for hearing as soon as practicable, and subsequent proceedings in such actions shall be accorded priority by the trial and appellate courts.

(f) Release of Recordings to Certain Persons; Expedited Process. - Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (g) of this section, a person authorized to receive disclosure pursuant to subsection (c) of this section, or the custodial law enforcement agency, may petition the superior court in any county where any portion of the recording was made for an order releasing the recording to a person authorized to receive disclosure. There shall be no fee for filing the petition which shall be filed on a form approved by the Administrative Office of the Courts and shall state the date and approximate time of the activity captured in the recording, or otherwise identify the activity with reasonable particularity sufficient to identify the recording. If the petitioner is a person authorized to receive disclosure, notice and an opportunity to be heard shall be given to the head of the custodial law enforcement agency. Petitions filed pursuant to this subsection shall be set down for hearing as soon as practicable and shall be accorded priority by the court.

The court shall first determine if the person to whom release of the recording is requested is a person authorized to receive disclosure pursuant to subsection (c) of this section. In making this determination, the court may conduct an in-camera review of the recording and may, in its discretion, allow the petitioner to be present to assist in identifying the image or voice in the recording that authorizes disclosure to the person to whom release is requested. If the court determines that the person is not authorized to receive disclosure pursuant to subsection (c) of this section, there shall be no right of appeal and the petitioner may file an action for release pursuant to subsection (g) of this section.

If the court determines that the person to whom release of the recording is requested is a person authorized to receive disclosure pursuant to subsection (c) of this section, the court shall consider the standards set out in subsection (g) of this section and any other standards the court deems relevant in determining whether to order the release of all or a portion of the recording. The court may conduct an in-camera review of the recording. The court shall release only those portions of the recording that are relevant to the person's request and may place any conditions or restrictions on the release of the recording that the court, in its discretion, deems appropriate.

(g) Release of Recordings; General; Court Order Required. - Recordings in the custody of a law enforcement agency shall only be released pursuant to court order. Any custodial law enforcement agency or any person requesting release of a recording may file an action in the superior court in any county where any portion of the recording was made for an order releasing the recording. The request for release must state the date and approximate time of the activity captured in the recording, or otherwise identify the activity with reasonable particularity sufficient to identify the recording to which the action refers. The court may conduct an in-camera review of the recording. In determining whether to order the release of all or a portion of the recording, in addition to any other standards the court deems relevant, the court shall consider the applicability of all of the following standards:

(1) Release is necessary to advance a compelling public interest.

(2) The recording contains information that is otherwise confidential or exempt from disclosure or release under State or federal law.

(3) The person requesting release is seeking to obtain evidence to determine legal issues in a current or potential court proceeding.

(4) Release would reveal information regarding a person that is of a highly sensitive personal nature.

(5) Release may harm the reputation or jeopardize the safety of a person.

(6) Release would create a serious threat to the fair, impartial, and orderly administration of justice.

(7) Confidentiality is necessary to protect either an active or inactive internal or criminal investigation or potential internal or criminal investigation.

(8) There is good cause shown to release all portions of a recording.

The court shall release only those portions of the recording that are relevant to the person's request, and may place any conditions or restrictions on the release of the recording that the court, in its discretion, deems appropriate.

In any proceeding pursuant to this subsection, the following persons shall be notified and those persons, or their designated representative, shall be given an opportunity to be heard at any proceeding: (i) the head of the custodial law enforcement agency, (ii) any law enforcement agency personnel whose image or voice is in the recording and the head of that person's employing law enforcement agency, and (iii) the District Attorney. Actions brought pursuant to this subsection shall be set down for hearing as soon as practicable, and subsequent proceedings in such actions shall be accorded priority by the trial and appellate courts.

(h) Release of Recordings; Law Enforcement Purposes. - Notwithstanding the requirements of subsections (c), (f), and (g) of this section, a custodial law enforcement agency shall disclose or release a recording to a district attorney (i) for review of potential criminal charges, (ii) in order to comply with discovery requirements in a criminal prosecution, (iii) for use in criminal proceedings in district court, or (iv) any other law enforcement purpose, and may disclose or release a recording for any of the following purposes:

(1) For law enforcement training purposes.

(2) Within the custodial law enforcement agency for any administrative, training, or law enforcement purpose.

(3) To another law enforcement agency for law enforcement purposes.

(i) Retention of Recordings. - Any recording subject to the provisions of this section shall be retained for at least the period of time required by the applicable records retention and disposition schedule developed by the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and Records.

(j) Agency Policy Required. - Each law enforcement agency that uses body-worn cameras or dashboard cameras shall adopt a policy applicable to the use of those cameras.

(k) No civil liability shall arise from compliance with the provisions of this section, provided that the acts or omissions are made in good faith and do not constitute gross negligence, willful or wanton misconduct, or intentional wrongdoing.

(l) Fee for Copies. - A law enforcement agency may charge a fee to offset the cost incurred by it to make a copy of a recording for release. The fee shall not exceed the actual cost of making the copy.

(m) Attorneys' Fees. - The court may not award attorneys' fees to any party in any action brought pursuant to this section. (2016-88, s. 1.)