Rule #1: Know the Law (Wherever You Are)

Published On March 7, 2013 | By Jason Bassler | Articles

Rule #1: Know the Law (Wherever You Are)
by Jason Bassler

STATES WITH WIRE TAPPING LAWS - COP BLOCKIf you choose to record the police you can reduce the risk of terrible legal consequences
and video loss by understanding your state’s laws.

The law in 38 states plainly allows citizens to record police, as long as you don’t physically interfere with their work. Police might still unfairly harass you, detain you, or confiscate your camera. They might even arrest you for some catchall misdemeanor such as obstruction of justice or disorderly conduct. But you will not be charged for illegally recording police.

There are 12 states (In green above) in total that enforce an all-party-consent law, but only three interpret it to include public places of gathering with absolutely no expectation of privacy.

However, In Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland (In blue above)  wiretapping and eavesdropping laws have
been used to prosecute individuals who have recorded police activity in a
public location.

In one example, motorcyclist Anthony
John Graber III was stopped for reckless driving. A plain-clothes police
officer stopped him, jumped out of his car waving a gun and screaming,
and issued a ticket. Graber had a video camera mounted in his motorcycle
helmet; he posted video of the encounter to youtube. Ten days after the
police encounter, after police found the video on youtube, Graber was
arrested and charged under felony wiretapping laws, which could result
in up to 5 years jail time (the charges were later dropped).

Conceived at a time when pocket-sized recording devices were available
only to James Bond types, most eavesdropping laws were originally
intended to protect people against snoops, spies, and peeping Toms. Now
with this technology in the hands of average citizens, police and
prosecutors are abusing these outdated laws to punish citizens merely
attempting to document on-duty police.

In most circumstances, officers will not immediately bum rush you for
filming them. But if they aren’t properly trained, they might feel like
their authority is being challenged. And all too often police are simply
ignorant of the law. Part of your task will be to convince them that
you’re not a threat while also standing your ground.

via (Police the Police A Community Project)

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  • Chris Mallory

    If the cops aren’t doing anything wrong then they have nothing to hide. Of course the chance that the cops aren’t doing something wrong is somewhere between slim and none.

    Disarm cops for a safer America.

    All cops lie, all the time.

  • Carrie

    It seems that Alaska and Hawaii have been left out, why?

  • tiberius

    Most wiretapping laws have the words “private conversation” listed. Holding a video camera in plain view and being lawfully present in a public place always removes any expectation of privacy the conversationalist has. If you want to play it safe simply announce for the recording and those around you “I am recording.”
    The DOJ has twice sent letters reiterating that it is okay to film police. See DOJ letters below for Sharpe v Baltimore PD and Garcia v Montgomery County:

    http://www.pixiq.com/sites/default/files/united_states_letter_re_photography_5_14_2012_0.pdf

    http://cdn.photographyisnotacrime.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Garcia-v-Montgomery-Cnty-DOJ-SOI-03-04-13.pdf

    Those individuals prosecuted were hiding their activity or chose to plead out.

  • Shawn

    For the supposedly upright people the cops here claim cops are, almost all cops have a mental disorder regarding filming. They are scared shitless of it. Of course, as in the one involving the ticket, cops hate having their bad attitudes exposed.

  • Ray

    There is a permanent injunction against enforcement and against prosecution in Illinois but that doesn’t mean the police will know the law or follow it if they do.
    http://rt.com/usa/supreme-court-illinois-police-653/

  • rick

    Strange! My post with links to the two DOJ letters regarding recording the police is now gone

  • t.

    Shawn: its not the filming per say. Its the frequent hatch job edits that occur with them.

  • Real Common Sense

    T, from what I have seen on youtube and many other sites like copblock.org, many of the videos are not spliced together to show the officers as aggressive or ignorant of the law. There are some that are edited down, ex: traffic stop where the officer goes back to his car to run the drivers information. Edits are done to eliminate stretches of time where nothing happens, believe me there is no reason to splice together footage to make the officers look bad, they do that all on their own.

  • Common Sense

    Ask Buehler how filming worked out for him in Texas

  • Steve H

    In FL, I can recall maybe 10 individuals arrested and charged with our wiretapping/eavesdropping statute due to recording leos in a public place. Number of trials, 0 and Number of convictions 0 and number of reduced sentences due to pleas, 0. Number of charges either not produced by the SA or nolle pros, 10.

    Prosecutors all over the state are warning leos not to arrest indivduals solely for recording the police encounter at their own peril. I know leos couldn’t care less in most circumstances, but I’m going to record you anyway.

  • Shawn

    @T

    There is a difference between editing out irrelevant stuff and cut and past hatchet jobs. Those are usually pretty obvious. Cops call everything a hatchet job. I’ve never seen a cop yet say “thank you for outing my buddies”
    But cops have shown a vindictive streak that needs to end. The court has told you it is legal. That should have been the end of it. Most of the recorded incidents here would be nothing, if the cop would simply ignore it.

  • BluEyeDevil

    I DON’T CARE WHERE YOU LIVE, RECORD ANYWAY. APPEALS COURTS ARE GREAT FOR OVERTURNING SOME FASCIST JUDGES RULING WHO GOES ALONG WITH THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL POLICE OPPRESSION.
    I LIVE IN THE BUTTHOLE OF THE U.S., NEAR CHICAGO LAND. GUESS WHAT COLOR, LOL, THIS BULLSHIT STATE IS. HERE THE SUPREME COURT HAVE ALREADY RULED THAT YOU CAN FILM THE POLICE IN THE COURSE OF THEIR DUTIES IN PUBLIC. ACLU VS. STATE OF ILLINOIS.
    I DARE SOME FUCKING PIG TO ARREST ME FOR WIRETAP FELONIES. I WILL LITIGATE TO NOT ONLY MAKE HIM LOOK LIKE A FOOL IN THE PUBLIC ARENA, BUT THE PROSECUTOR AND THE CIRCUIT JUDGE AS WELL. MAKE SOME DOUGH FOR WHATEVER MY LAWYER CAN MAKE UP AGAINST THE CITY AND THE PUBLIC DOLE. YOU KNOW STACK MY ACCOUNT A LITTLE MORE, LOL……I WOULD LOVE THAT OPPORTUNITY.
    MORAL OF THE STORY; FILM THE PIGS AS MUCH AS YOU CAN.

  • Common Sense

    Always good to have admirers.

  • t.

    I’ve been on record here many times saying Film film film. I usually am. As for edits…that’s darn near all there is here. Maybe not taking out critical pieces (although that happens too), but the edits of stopping the video and then telling people what they should be seeing. When videos are viewed “as is” they showed at least a single vantage point of what happened. Take 2 recent posts. Look at Davy V’s last post and an officer supposedly not doing his job. Watch the video and the. Read the description….no where near the same thing. The officer clearly did nothing wrong. Hatchet job. Another is the video showing a female getting punched by an officer. Again watch the video and look at what is said. No where near the same thing. Hatchet job. It happens all the time on sites like this one. Watch the video with out the narrative edits….and you see much more of the truth.

  • Alex

    I’m an investigative reporter in in NV & the way our lawyers interpret the law is that recordings made in person are one party consent (the recording party) but that telephone recordings mimic the federal law requiring ALL parties to consent. We are definitely a one party consent state, otherwise I’d be in jail by now.

  • Lakewood_in_Afghanistan

    Good to see wifi is up in the metalshop, common.

  • Common Sense

    Not really, I caught Davy V story with the incorrect date and posted, but it never made it to the site. Oh well. I’m only in the shop on my pass days. Ran out of argon so it was a short day.

  • Pingback: How Does Your State Feel About Filming Police?

  • Rob

    Thisinformation is six months obsolete. The Supreme courtrefusedto gear the case. You can record in ANY state.