Filming Police is Not a Crime

By Davis Law Firm | February 28, 2018

Experienced NJ Criminal Defense LawyerIn 2015, a Texas representative introduced a bill that would have made it a misdemeanor in the state to photograph or record police within 25 feet of them, unless one worked for a licensed broadcaster or a print publication that published at least once a week.

State Representative Jason Villalba retracted the bill after his office was informed that many law enforcement officers opposed it. But the debate over whether it is – or should be – illegal to photograph or record police encounters with the public rages on.

Currently, it is not a crime to record police, as long as you are not interfering with their work. While police can tell you to get out of the way, they cannot legally prevent you from recording them as they carry out their public duties in a public place, notes the ACLU.

“If you’re standing across the street videotaping, and I’m in a public place, carrying out my public functions, I’m subject to recording, and there’s nothing legally the police officer can do to stop you from recording,” D.C. metropolitan police union chairman Delroy Burton told The Atlantic in 2015.

Burton also gave the following advice to people who wish to record police activities: “Record from a distance, stay out of the scene, and the officer doesn’t have the right to come over and take your camera, confiscate it.”

Concerns about the right to film police have risen in recent years, fueled by concerns over police brutality and rising political tensions. One video that went viral in 2015 appeared to show a U.S. Marshal taking and destroying a bystander’s camera as she filmed the Marshal at work.

According to the ACLU’s “Know Your Rights” guide for photographers, people may take pictures of anything in plain view from a public space. This includes police officers carrying out their duties in public. Police may not confiscate your equipment or images without a warrant or without your consent, and they may not delete any images or video.

Because photos and video can be crucial evidence of what actually happened during a police encounter – including whether or not police violated a person’s Constitutional rights – the right to film can be an important adjunct to the criminal justice process.

If you’ve been charged with a crime, don’t hesitate to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Your attorney can help you understand the charges, protect your legal rights, and fight for the outcome you seek. At the Davis Law Firm, we focus on securing justice for real people. To speak to one of our attorneys, contact us today at 609.503.7813.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney/client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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