With certain high-profile cases around the country calling into question the use of police force, many citizens are turning to cell phones or dash cams to record their interactions with police. Some people may wonder if this is legal or if they could be arrested for interfering with police officer for doing this. You have the right to film any interaction with the police and have the right to film others assuming you are not interfering with the police in the line of duty (filming is not inherently interfering but it might be if a person runs up and shoves the camera right in the officer’s face).
The First Amendment gives citizens the right to film or otherwise photograph areas in plain sight. The ACLU provides a good overview of what citizens can do and what limitations the police face in attempting to prevent being filmed. For instance, police cannot delete or otherwise confiscate a camera or phone that was legally filming or photographing.
A person should be cautious, however, when choosing to film. Suddenly reaching for a phone that is in a pocket or otherwise putting your hands where the officer can’t see them could escalate the situation. Never make sudden movements or reach for your pocket without the officer’s consent. Your safety and the safety of the office is of paramount importance so you should do nothing that makes the office feel threatened or seeks to unnecessarily antagonize the officer.
There is movement afoot to put body cameras on all police officers to film every interaction police have with citizens. While this raises certain privacy questions, it may help to curb alleged abuse from police officers and provide a neutral third party if a dispute arises about the validity of a police stop, the necessary use of force, etc. Until then, citizens should exercise their rights to film interactions with the police in order to protect their rights.
If you have been arrested, contact a defense attorney at Kroll & Johnson. We will aggressively right to defend your rights.