What is a Courtroom Video?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A courtroom video is a video recording of proceedings in a courtroom, usually accompanied with an audio track. Recording of this nature is not permitted in all courtrooms, and in courts where it is allowed, it can be restricted for security and other reasons.

Some courtrooms have pre-installed cameras for internal record keeping.
Some courtrooms have pre-installed cameras for internal record keeping.

Some courts use courtroom video as a form of internal recording. A court recorder is still present to take down proceedings but a video can be used to make another form of record that will show what happened in court. In the event that there are disputes about what happened in court, having multiple records to show the events can be helpful. Internal courtroom videos are kept in a secured area of a courthouse or in a separate facility and they are not intended for the use of members of the general public.

Courtroom video might be used as part of a news station's coverage of a trial.
Courtroom video might be used as part of a news station's coverage of a trial.

Members of the media can make courtroom videos although they are required to make a request prior to the opening of court. Courts limit the types of proceedings that can be recorded and a judge can choose to eject members of the media. Courtroom video of this nature can be used to report on events that happen in court and sometimes trials are broadcast because there is high public interest. Since it would not be possible for everyone interested in such cases to attend court, the courtroom video provides a method for accessing the event.

Judges have the authority to eject members of the media and stop recordings.
Judges have the authority to eject members of the media and stop recordings.

In many nations, judges have the power to clear a court and hold closed proceedings. Courtroom video is usually not allowed in these proceedings. Likewise, judges holding hearings in their chambers can deny access to the media. When a jury is cleared from a room while the judge and attorneys debate a point of order or challenge evidence, the judge may also order that recording cease. Recordings are also not allowed if the judge is concerned that they could prejudice the trial or endanger someone involved in a trial, such as a confidential witness.

Archives of courtroom videos that have been broadcast are usually available through the media and through organizations that collect and archive video content. In cases where photography and recording are not allowed, members of the media may use tools like courtroom sketches and notes they take during trial proceedings to report on the trial and bring the events to life for members of the public.

Members of the public may be barred from bringing recording devices into court, depending on the court and the proceeding. It is advisable to contact the bailiff ahead of time if there are questions about recording.

Video recording may not be permitted in some courtrooms.
Video recording may not be permitted in some courtrooms.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@Emilski - I would think that say a case that involved rape or a brutal murder would not be allowed to be broadcast or even a trial that involves a minor.

I also would think that a trial has to fit certain guidelines to begin with and would have to be set up in a way to allow the trial to be broadcast.

Although there may be some judges looking to make a name for themselves, most of the time this is not the case and they could get in trouble for doing so.

That being said I would think that they would be extremely cautious as to allowing a video to be broadcast and I would really like to know what types of guidelines there would be to look for that may allow a case to be broadcast over the air.

I could see the judge allowing a trial to be broadcast for the matter of public record and the fact people may be heavily invested in the trial, but again there are many things that could go wrong and I would like to know what guidelines there are that must be met in order for the trial to be broadcast.


@matthewc23 - I really would think that allowing a court room video to be broadcast would be a bad idea and violate the private nature of such a hearing as well as possibly sway the outcome of a case.

Now, I am sure that there are rules and guide lines in which someone can be allowed to broadcast a trial and I assume that most judges are hesitant to begin with, but I would think that there would be some other power besides the judge that may decide whether or not it is proper to allow court room video to be shown and broadcasted.

I would also like to think that certain types of cases cannot be shown on television, either due to the graphic nature, or just the fact the people involved do not want it to be shown.


@jmc88 - I absolutely agree. I think that most judges look at the trial portion as being a very private event that people outside of those involved in the trial really need to stay out of.

Say there is a controversial case that wants to be aired live in television, it could affect the public opinion of those involved simply because of the harsh feelings associated with the trial and the fact that the media will debate and publicize the trial enough that it could cause people to unfairly judge either side.

One could say that the evidence shown on television will not allow this to happen, but people's perception is not always swayed by this and a person that is on trial for something could be completely exonerated and still have to face the wrath of public perception because people have made their own decision not based on the evidence bu on the hoopla associated with the trial.


I find it very unlikely that a bailiff or the judge would allow just anyone to record a court case in session.

I really feel like the only types of cases in which video will be allowed, outside of recording for record keeping purposes, is if it is a high profile media event and the trial is being broadcast.

Now, despite the public interest that may be invested in the trial, a lot of the time the judge will not allow cameras to record or broadcast the trial simply because of the amount of prejudice that could occur because of the case.

One other thing to keep in mind is if a trial were to be broadcast a juror could potentially see what is being broadcast on television and listen to debate on the trial at hand.

When this is done it could impact their thinking as far as their decision goes and can prove to be a real problem for the honesty and impartial nature of the trial.

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