Whether or not a person has the right to record police officers has been widely debated. In 2016, a judge ruled that it was not a legal right, but several legal organizations have contended that it is. If you are threatened with arrest for recording an officer, it is important that you understand the potential consequences and know what actions you can take to protect yourself.
Can You Film the Police?
According to organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, you have the legal right to file a police officer in public spaces. However, a federal judge's ruling called into question whether or not recording an officer is a constitutional right.
The judge ruled that the First Amendment does not apply to this particular situation. As a result, you could potentially face serious consequences if an officer finds that you are recording him or her.
Should You Stop Recording?
In some instances, police officers will ask bystanders to stop recording. If you choose to continue to record, it is important that you understand the officer could choose to place you under arrest for filming. The charges can vary, but a possible charge could be interfering with the police. Depending on the laws in your state, a charge of interference could result in heavy fines and even jail time.
It is important to note that if you are on private property, if the owner has not agreed to allow you to film, you could face charges for trespassing.
The officer could attempt to confiscate your phone or camera. In order to be justified in doing so, the officer has to prove that he or she has a good faith belief that the film obtains evidence of a crime that was committed by someone other than him or her.
What If You Are Arrested?
One of the first steps you should take if you are arrested for filming is to ask what the charge is. When discussing the charge, inform the officer that you believed you were exercising your First Amendment right. The assertion might be enough to convince the officer not to arrest you.
However, if you are arrested and charged, you need to contact a criminal lawyer as soon as possible. Do not discuss the situation with the officers without an attorney present.
You also do not have to unlock your phone or camera for the police officer. He or she will have to get a warrant to gain access to your data. If the officer does attempt to access your film or tries to force you to, inform your attorney immediately. Contact a company like Larson, Latham, Huettl Attorneys to learn more.