Can You Legally Record The Police?

Posted on: 26 May 2015

In recent months, the right to record police officers has been given a lot of attention. There have been some instances in which citizens have complained that police not only stopped them from recording the actions of police, but also confiscated their phones. Whether or not you have the right to record police is considered to be a constitutional issue. 

The First Amendment

Most courts consider it a First Amendment right for citizens to film police officers while they are in the act of performing their duties. For instance, if you see police officers arresting a suspect, you can record the incident on your cell phone, camera, or other type of recording device. 

However, there are some restrictions to this particular right which have been designated by different courts, including the Supreme Court. 

State Wiretapping Laws

In some states, wiretapping or recording a conversation with another person without his or her knowledge, such as the police, could land you in hot water. Some courts have sided with police in the belief that the officers had a reasonable right to expect privacy while performing certain duties. 

For instance, in the case of the Commonwealth vs. Michael Hyde, the court sided with the police. Mr. Hyde had secretly recorded a conversation with a police officer who had stopped him for having a loud exhaust system. Mr. Hyde accused the officers of misconduct during the stop and cited his recording as evidence. 

After an investigation, Mr. Hyde was charged with four counts of wiretapping. The judge agreed with the complaint filed against Mr. Hyde and stated that he did not have the right to record the conversation. Subsequently, he was found guilty of all four counts. 

Interference With an Officer's Duties

It is also considered illegal to interfere with the duties of a police officer in order to record his or her actions while performing law enforcement duties. For instance, if the police officer is attempting to arrest a suspect and the suspect is becoming more hostile because of your filming, it is considered interference. If you do decide to film an officer, it is important to stay clear of the officers. 

If you have been charged with a crime related to filming a police officer or had your recording device confiscated while doing so, talk to an attorney. The attorney can help assess whether or not you were within your legal rights to film the actions of the officer and help present a defense against the criminal charges. 

To learn more, contact a criminal defense attorney like Russ Jones Attorney At Law.