Legality of Video Taping the Police


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Mad Man
October 13, 2005, 07:05 AM
On another web site (http://www.reason.com/hitandrun/2005/10/ill_give_you_so.shtml), somebody brought up a good question:


Ever since this story came out, what I've been wondering is, is it necessary to show credentials to continue taping? Do police have the legal ability to order someone to stop video recording? Do journalistic credentials make a difference?

Comment by: dead_elvis at October 11, 2005 03:06 PM


I'm not interested in opinions about the way things should be in some perfect (or at least better) world.

Are there any legal rulings that prohibit the video taping of law enforcement officers. If a police officer demands that you turn over your camera and film to him, do you have a legal right to refuse?

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nhhillbilly
October 13, 2005, 07:22 AM
If you are leagly standing where are are allowed to you can video tape without sound in NH all you warn. If you voice record you must inform the people that you are taping you are taping them. You have to be on legal ground ie public sidewalk, your own property. If you are on private property the owner's of said property can order you off. AS for seizing the tape. Not really they will need to get a warrant for said tape if you refuse their request to turn it over. THey can detain you until they get a warrant in hand. I would be on my cell phone contacting news and attorney if it came to that.

geekWithA.45
October 13, 2005, 10:15 AM
The notion that those with press credentials are somehow more privileged than citizens in their rights to observe, record, and talk about what goes on in public is analogous to the notion that those with badges are the only ones holy enough to bear arms.

StopTheGrays
October 13, 2005, 10:46 AM
I would think one would be able to do it but could/would not the PO-PO just seize the tape as "evidence" on the spot with out a warrant?

50 Freak
October 13, 2005, 04:22 PM
Here is something to think about. With the advance of cell phone technology. It's not entirely unfeasible that a cell phone will be capable of taking video clip (long 15-30 minute ones, not the 2-3 second ones). If that is the case, anytime there is a "incident" with the police and a "unruley" perp.

The LE's will have to be more careful as there will be a ton of people with "cameras" trained on them.

This is a good thing for us Citizens as there will be a decline of "I was forced to shoot that guy 30 times because he had a nailcliper and I was in fear of my life". Everything will be on film and under scrutiny from a Judge and Jury. Not to mention public opinion.

LawDog
October 13, 2005, 04:31 PM
To my knowledge there is nothing that prevents a citizen from videotaping police activities within reason.

As long as a citizen doesn't put me or anyone else in danger while videotaping, I'm just going to wave and say, "Hi, Mom!"

*shrug*

LawDog

cuchulainn
October 13, 2005, 04:39 PM
If you voice record you must inform the people that you are taping you are taping them. That depends on the state. Some states have rules that both parties (recorder and recordee) must know -- thus your advice. Other states stipulate only that one of the parties must know -- thus it would be sufficient for the person holding the camera to know.

The same goes for recording phone conversations. In some states, you have to inform the other parties. In some states, you don't.

pax
October 13, 2005, 04:47 PM
cuchulainn et al ~

If it is illegal to record voices without consent, is it also illegal to simply transmit the same voices -- without recording?

Does that also vary from state to state?

(I'm thinking of calling a talk show, for instance, and letting them have a live feed ...)

pax

cuchulainn
October 13, 2005, 04:54 PM
If it is illegal to record voices without consent, is it also illegal to simply transmit the same voices -- without recording?

Does that also vary from state to state? I don't know -- although what a radio station does typically is governed by the FCC.

Henry Bowman
October 13, 2005, 05:07 PM
The same goes for recording phone conversations. In some states, you have to inform the other parties. In some states, you don't. True, but federal law, which govers all telecommunications (even intrastate), prohibits recording unless all parties are informed and consent.

If you call a talk radio station, you expect that your voice may be broadcast and have certainly given implied consent (also may be some "newsworthy" exception). Transmitting and broadcasting someone else's voice over the radio is s different story.

Standing Wolf
October 13, 2005, 05:11 PM
The notion that those with press credentials are somehow more privileged than citizens in their rights to observe, record, and talk about what goes on in public is analogous to the notion that those with badges are the only ones holy enough to bear arms.

Excellent comparison—one I'm sure lots of cops would uphold, too.

odysseus
October 13, 2005, 05:31 PM
That depends on the state. Some states have rules that both parties (recorder and recordee) must know -- thus your advice. Other states stipulate only that one of the parties must know -- thus it would be sufficient for the person holding the camera to know.

I am not a lawyer. However as I understand it, if you are out in a public area and someone has a camera out, you can't expect privacy. Think paparazzi and celebrities. You can't get in people' way - block their path, and there are definate lines of personal space to some degree. You don't need a "press pass" to do this - usually that is reserved for private invitations, however in practice this seems to be claimed a lot by people. I would imagine in a LE situation, the only other layer is yours or officer's safety.

cuchulainn
October 13, 2005, 05:50 PM
True, but federal law, which govers all telecommunications (even intrastate), prohibits recording unless all parties are informed and consent. Well, at least with phone conversations, federal law stipulates only that one party being recorded be informed. Thus, unless state law stipulates otherwise, the "one-party" rule applies. AFAIK, this applies to all audio recordings (bugging your own office, for example).

Are the rules different for the audio portions of audio-visual recordings?

I think FCC consent rules you refer to involves broadcasts, which is different from recording.

Tierhog
October 13, 2005, 07:52 PM
Pax, as far as I know, it is illegal to "intercept" a conversation by electronic means in Washington. When I was a 911 dispatcher we were recording our non emergency public line but did not inform the public. When the local prosecutor found out he informed us that we were in violation of the law, the recording stopped. That was years ago though, things may have changed, I.E. Patriot Act.

brerrabbit
October 13, 2005, 09:19 PM
So taping a public employee in the commission of his duties is illegal? Does a public employee have any expectation of privacy while doing their job. when that cop is out patrolling, he is not acting as a private citizen, but as a LEO.

Best I can figure, I have every right to tape them, without warning, as I see fit. :D

MDG1976
October 13, 2005, 09:23 PM
The notion that those with press credentials are somehow more privileged than citizens in their rights to observe, record, and talk about what goes on in public is analogous to the notion that those with badges are the only ones holy enough to bear arms.

very well put.

If you're on public property, you can film or photograph whatever you please.

Blue Line
October 13, 2005, 09:32 PM
If you are in a public place, not on sombodys property, and you can see and hear the other party that ANYONE else in a public place can see and hear then you can record it. Have you ever watched America Funniest Videos or the like? Now, if you use sometype of audio or visual device that would permit you to see or hear something that the un-aided eye or hear would be unable to do, then you probalby wrong.

Obvisously I'm not a lawyer but I did sleep at a Holiday Inn last nite :)

M-Rex
October 13, 2005, 09:39 PM
There is no expectation of privacy on a public street. Video until your heart's content.

Have a ball. http://www.copwatch.com/

cuchulainn
October 13, 2005, 09:48 PM
The notion that those with press credentials are somehow more privileged than citizens in their rights to observe, record, and talk about what goes on in publicBy the way, press credentials aren't akin to licenses to practice law or medicine. You don’t need credentials to act as a reporter (such a requirement would be a blatant violation of the 1st Amt).

Credentials are more a favor granted to the press rather than a requirement placed upon the press.

One purpose of press credentials is to give the press access to areas not usually open to the general public. For example, with press credentials, you typically can get into most non-public areas of legislatures and courthouses (within reason, of course ... you can't simply barge into someone's private office).

Similarly, at government public meetings, court trials, etc. there usually are seating areas reserved “press only.” You'd need credentials to take a seat there. Credentialed camera/sound crews usually get to come into the meeting room early to set up. Un-credentialed press are free to cover the meeting/trials, but they can’t get into the “press only” seating.

Getting credentials usually is a matter of the issuer (the courthouse, for example) simply having a copy of the reporter’s publication on file along with a letter from the reporter’s editor or publisher stating that he works for the publication. In return, the reporter gets the credentials, typically some sort of photo ID.

Often, the board that issues credentials is made up of members of the press acting with the blessing of the issuing body – this helps remove any appearance of 1st Amt violations if someone is refused credentials. Who might be refused? Sometimes, for example, lobbyists have been known to try to get press credentials to give themselves more access to legislators – usually credentials come with a warning that any lobbying-like behavior by the reporter will cause loss of credentials.

Hawkmoon
October 13, 2005, 10:31 PM
True, but federal law, which govers all telecommunications (even intrastate), prohibits recording unless all parties are informed and consent.
I've been wrong before and I may be wrong this time, but I beg to disagree on two counts.

(1) I do not think the Feds have jurisdiction over inTRAstate communication. There was the case of a mayor of one of Connecticut's larger cities being busted for using his gummint phone to solicit sex with children. The FBI stumbled onto it while tapping his phones to investigate corruption and had to blow the investigation to curtail the pedophilia, but as I recall what I read in my brother's newspapers, they were able to use the phone calls as evidence on the pretext that they were made using a cell phone in a location that used a cell tower in the adjacent state, thus giving the Feds jurisdiction. If they automatically have jurisdiction over intrastate communication, this would not have been an issue at trial.

(2) I am 99% certain that Federal law (as well as that of most states) requires that only one party to a telephone conversation be aware that it is being taped. Most states echo that. When I lived in Connecticut myself I was dismayed to find that it was (and still is, I believe) one of only a very small number of states that go beyond the Federal rule and require that BOTH parties be aware that the conversation is being taped. I think that's an idiotic rule, because (for example, as actually happened to me in another life) if I were to receive a threatening phone call at 3:00 a.m., if I were to record the call without informing the miscreant that I was doing so, even if he told me exactly who he was and where he was calling from it would not be admissible as evidence. Dumb ... very dumb.

F4GIB
October 14, 2005, 12:21 AM
If it is illegal to record voices without consent,

It is not illegal nor is any warning required to record anything you can see or hear ON A PUBLIC STREET (place).

Unless you are physically interfering with the police action (enough to be charged with that crime), you can record everything these public employees do.

Some of you are confusing the recording of telephone calls or private conversations where there is an EXPECTATION OF PRIVACY and various federal and state statutory limitations. In a "public" place, you have no expectation of privacy from the police or from anyone else who can see or hear you.

natedog
October 14, 2005, 01:04 AM
I fear the police that fear citizens video taping their activities.

Harve Curry
October 14, 2005, 08:24 AM
In my opinion, anything can be filmed, videotaped, or audio taped by a citizen observing public servants of any kind. There is camera's in patrol cars filming. Cameras in building and streets.
You would have to be careful so they cannot claim you interfered.
Have witnesses, keep people around you as much as possible.

Michigander
October 14, 2005, 08:48 AM
This doesn't have any direct relationship to this discussion, but as a side note:

In Michigan a few years ago there was a case where a man entered attic of his neighbor's house from an outside access panel. He then placed a hidden camera in the ceiling of the neighbor's bedroom. Apparently he was recording the goings-on of his neighbors (IIRC a man and woman couple) for a number of years. But he was not recording audio.

Once in court, he was only charged with tresspass because there were no laws in Michigan at that time concerning recording video of someone, even in private, without their consent. I heard talk of passing a law after this happened, but I'm not sure if one ever was.

Also, a friend of mine once had a neighbor stalker. He filed charges against her because she was peering at him with binoculars, which is illegal in Michigan. I'm not sure of that exact law, but peering at your neighbors via binoculars/telescope is illegal.

But my understanding, as other have said, is that if you can see and hear something in public without much effort (i.e. not leaning over to peer through a slit in a curtain, aka "peeping"), then you can record it, assuming you are not breaking any other law to do so (i.e. tresspass).

Gannet
October 14, 2005, 09:04 AM
This is a 1st Amendment issue, and there is lots of case law, although much of it has to do with still photography (IANAL). Same issue with video, though.

With extremely few exceptions, you have a right to photograph anything when you are in a public place, or when you are in a private place with the owner's permission. There can be a local exception for "peeping Tom" laws. For example, you have a right to take a picture of anyone's house from the street. You don't necessarily have a right to use a telephoto lens to peer into their bedroom.

There is an exception to allow the government to prohibit photography of military bases, etc., and since 9/11 further exceptions have been granted to prohibit photography of bridges, tunnels, and similar sensitive infrastructure. I think some of these would be vulnerable to serious challenge.

Note, however, that there are a lot more legalities that restrict what you can do with your photos. I have a right to take your photo in public, but, with certain exceptions, I don't have a right to publish it without your permission. Hence "model releases". Courts have also held that owners of distinctive buildings and such have a right to restrict publication of images of their property. The laws and case law for these various publication restrictions are murky, confused, highly localized, and often contradictory. Proceed with care. However, as to recording police in the performance of their duties, these various "ownership" rights should not apply.

Again, IANAL, I only follow this stuff due to my interest in photography. If you want to learn more from folks who are living with this every day, search for "street photography".

cuchulainn
October 14, 2005, 09:26 AM
F4GIB: Some of you are confusing the recording of telephone calls or private conversations where there is an EXPECTATION OF PRIVACY and various federal and state statutory limitations. In a "public" place, you have no expectation of privacy from the police or from anyone else who can see or hear you.Although that's how it ought to be, it's not necessarily that way. For example, see the following 1990s opinion from the NY attorney general related to police video cameras used to monitor public streets and sidewalks. The AG opined that if the cameras recorded audio, then there would be a violation of the state's eavesdropping laws.

Again, it's a state-to-state question.

from: http://www.oag.state.ny.us/lawyers/opinions/1997/informal/97_47.html (my emphasis)
Article 700 defines "eavesdropping" to include wiretapping, mechanical overhearing of conversation and the intercepting or accessing of an electronic communication as those terms are used in Penal Law § 250.00. "Mechanical overhearing" means the use of a device for the intentional overhearing of a conversation without the consent of one of the parties by a person not present. Penal Law § 250.00(2). Any video surveillance that includes an audio component would fall within this definition and the warrant requirements for eavesdropping would apply.

LoneStranger
October 15, 2005, 02:44 AM
Do any of these recording restrictions really apply if you only use them for your own purposes? Say you have bad hearing and you wish to have copy of a speech for further review.

Carl N. Brown
October 21, 2005, 05:51 PM
During the Ruby Creek vigil and protest during the
Ruby Ridge/Randy Weaver incident (Aug 1992)
protesters and police videotaped each other.

BFWE
October 21, 2005, 06:42 PM
I can only speak about Texas in this matter as that is the extent of my personal knowlege. I was a Peace Officer here for 10 years.

There is a concept (already aluded to earlier) called "resonable expectation of privacy". So if you are standing / speaking in a public place you have an extremely limited expectation of privacy and people can video, photograph, and tape you to thier hearts content so long as they do not impeed you (i.e. they can not block your way doing their thing.) By way of example, if you were standing naked in your front room widow with no shades/blinds drawn, you don't have a expectation to privacy. You can't claim someone "peeped" you, especially if they are standing on the sidewalk or other public property.

In relation to law enforcement, as long as no one's person or property is endangered, or the law enforcement situation is not impaired or the officers interfeared with, you can't legally be interfered with. However, officers can act to prevent your injury, injury to others or property, or to keep you from interfering with their duties though your vedio/taping activites. They could confiscating your equipment and/or arrest you if you are exaurbating (sp?) a situation or just acting stupid and about to get hurt.

The POs will have to justify their acts and will be held responsible if their actions concerning your activities and/or property were not lawful or reasonable.

The simple fact is that videos usually exonerate the actions of PO's.

Transmission of electronic materials or unlawful interception of same (ex. wire-tapping, listening in to someone's cell phone using a scanner, etc.) is another matter entirely and really can't be placed in the same buckett with video/taping something occuring in public.

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