M.J. from Brooklyn, NY writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I’m a unit owner, my wife is on the condo board. I got into an altercation with a stranger in front of our building. The guy was injured. He went to the hospital and filed a false report that I walked up to him and just beat him up for no reason. The truth is I asked why he was trying to light the intercom on fire and he attacked me and I defended myself. The Camera system only caught the end part when I was beating him up. I was arrested because the management company gave the video to the police.
My question is does the management first have to get permission from the board to allow the police to take the video without a warrant? There are no bylaws on this matter and the board only found out the management company gave the police afterwards. Can I argue it was not legally obtained?
Mister Condo replies:
M.J., I am sorry for your situation and I am certainly sorry that you got into an altercation trying to defend association equipment. As you can likely know by now, the police are the proper authority to contact when you witness any sort of vandalism of association property. Taking matters into your own hands is certainly an act of bravery but can come with dire consequences as it has in your case. The management company does report to the Board with regards to all matters dealing with association governance. The security cameras and the footage captured by the cameras are association property and under the jurisdiction of the Board. However, the management company is also charged by the Board to handle many day-to-day business decisions that surface in between Board meetings. The police coming to the office and requesting the video surveillance tapes is a great example of where there are no previous examples of how to handle the situation. Providing the video tape was a decision the management company made. Whether or not they were in their legal right to do so is a matter for attorneys to settle. I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice here. You should most certainly hire an attorney to represent you in this court matter and your attorney is the one who can best advise you of the admissibility of the tape as evidence and whether or not it was legally obtained. From what you have described here, the tape was asked for and delivered. I don’t see where there is any argument to be made about how it was obtained. The question is whether or not the management company had the authority to release the association’s property to the police. My guess is that if it wasn’t handed over as requested, a warrant for its release would likely have been forthcoming. Either way, your attorney will offer you the best advice in this matter. My advice for you is to never confront a vandal or any other criminal. A quick call to the police is a far better solution that protects your safety and keeps you out of altercations. Good luck!