With the recent investigations involving Mike Brown and Eric Garner questions have been raised concerning law enforcement and video recordings. In the case of Eric Garner, the only person that was indicted was Ramsey Orta the civilian that recorded the incident. There have been countless accounts of law enforcement seizing phones and demanding civilians to stop recording. Sometimes officers adopt forceful tactics to stop people from recording. Contrary to popular belief, it is within a person's legal rights to record law enforcement as long as they are not obstructing justice in the process. Any member of law enforcement that forcefully prevents you from recording is actively impeding on your 1st Amendment right.
If you ever feel inclined to record law enforcement, knowing your rights and following safety tips can prevent you from landing in trouble.
1. Know the law
Remember, it is not illegal to record law enforcement as long as you are not infringing on their ability to complete their job. No matter how threatening or menacing an officer may seem it is within your legal right to record the incident taking place. However, in some states it is illegal to record a conversation taking place between an officer and another civilian. If both parties do not consent to being recorded you are not permitted to record their conversation.
2. Respond when asked a question
If you are recording an officer of the law and they ask you a question, it is recommended that you politely answer the questions. Questions like "Why are you recording?" should be addressed with short and polite responses. Answers such as "Officer, I am within my legal right as a civilian to record what is taking place" or "I am recording this incident, but not interfering with your ability to complete your duty" are appropriate responses that will not agitate or offend law enforcement. Sometimes officers feel that their authority is being questioned or challenged, which can drive them to become forceful. To prevent the situation from escalating try to always answer officers if they address you first.
3. Be careful of what you share
If a member of law enforcement asks to see your recording it is always best to politely decline their request. Permitting an officer with the right to your phone can lead to a series of problems. Keep your recordings to yourself and if you choose to upload your recording do so with discretion. It is possible to upload anonymously, however if you chose to upload the recording as yourself you may have to deal with the repercussions that follow.
5. Prepare for potential arrest
While recording law enforcement be prepared to be detained and/or arrested. It may not happen, but if it does it is always in your best interest to be well prepared. Remain calm and do not resist arrest, physically assaulting a police officer will land you in actual trouble. If you didn't break any laws in the process during the recording or arrest, charges against you will most likely be dropped.
If you feel that your legal rights have been violated, feel free to contact us at Kyle Law Firm.