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Videotaping Police = Felony?

Discussion in 'Legal' started by Flyboy, Jun 12, 2007.

  1. Flyboy

    Flyboy Well-Known Member

    Summary: 18-year-old charged with felony wiretapping for videotaping police in the performance of their duties.
    So, in no particular order:
    1) The state allows officers to record, but not private citizens; in other words, the state wants to be the sole source of evidence.
    2) The kid was in the truck--doesn't that make him a party to the traffic stop? Is Pennsylvania a single-party consent state, or do they require the consent of all parties?
    3) This wasn't a private conversation--don't most prosecutors argue the "expectation of privacy?" Where's the expectation, if the cop didn't remove the kid from earshot?
    4) It's a felony to record an officer of the government in the performance of his duties! Not just a crime--which would be bad enough--but a felony! Think on that one for a minute.


    (Story from http://blog.pennlive.com/patriotnews/2007/06/brian_d_kelly_didnt_think.html)
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2007
  2. hrgrisso

    hrgrisso Well-Known Member


    Can you provide original source please? Interesting case, thanks!
  3. Frog48

    Frog48 Well-Known Member

    Its a "cover your arse" strategy by the state. They figure that if they make taping an officer's duties against the law, it would make such videotapes inadmissible in court should a Rodney King type situation arise in the future.
  4. pacodelahoya

    pacodelahoya Well-Known Member

    Pa is an all parties consent. I found that out when I asked my Township why they didn't tape the council meetings since the minutes were not accurate and damn near fraudulent. Shortly thereafter, two police came to my house inquiring into bogus zoning violations. I turned the videotape on them and asked for a warrant. I didn't get arrested but I didn't make any pals that day!:evil:

    Grant, maybe you need to update your reference material, the government hasn't been working for the people since oh I dunno, 1800 and something or another.:banghead:
  5. Blakenzy

    Blakenzy Well-Known Member

    How the hell is videotaping someone in a public place considered "wiretapping"?

    I thought the whole concept of wiretapping was gaining access to a private communication line/system through obscure means with the intent to gather information, without permision, of one or both parties involved in the communication.

    I am definitely missing something here...
  6. Flyboy

    Flyboy Well-Known Member

  7. Kali Endgame

    Kali Endgame member

    What a strange story. How about all those tourists that wander around with the cameras? Media? Do you have to have a special permit to record people? I thought there was a ruling a few years ago, where it was ruled that outside your home you are fair game for recording.
  8. ArfinGreebly

    ArfinGreebly Moderator Emeritus

    El Tejon

    Yo, El T, can we get some input on this?

    Y'know, like something legal sounding?

    Wiretapping? With a camera?

    Sounds like a real stretch.
  9. griz

    griz Well-Known Member

    Why? Wouldn't the people in the vehicle during the traffic stop have just as much use of an accurate record of the event? Unless the intrests of the public are not what is being protected by this law.

    Also, they talked about intent as being a condition of the crime. What is the malicious intent that this guy had in taping the stop?

    And as mentioned already, how do TV news people record crowd scenes and other events where it isn't practical to get everybodies consent?
  10. det.pat

    det.pat Well-Known Member

    in pa you must the consent of all parties to the conversation. if you want to legally record, then you disable the audio input. working as a PI in PA i always disable the video on my camcorders, then i don't have to worry about what i may pickup if the subject gets too close to my camera.

    his problem was having an active audio pickup and covering the camera. i have recorded officers in the past and made it plain that the audio was disabled, they didn't like but couldn't do anything when i declined to turn the camera off.

  11. Autolycus

    Autolycus Well-Known Member

    That is a good point about why the officers have the right to record while the lowly serfs are not allowed to.

    As public servants we should be able to record their actions and make sure they behave in a legal manner. I dont understand why the law allows some people to make exceptions while denying others the same rights.
  12. Kentak

    Kentak Well-Known Member

    This totally stinks. It should be legal for citizens to record, with audio or video, LEO's, or any other public officials, engaged in their official activity--as long it does not interfere with that activity and the person recording has a right to be there. I see no compelling reason to have to ask for permission or give notice, either. This is a totally different situation from, for example, recording a phone conversation between two private individuals who have a reasonable expectation of privacy. I've no problem with a law covering that.

    If I'm pulled over, and I've got one of those little digital recorders stuck in my shirt pocket, I should be able to turn it on and record my conversation with the LEO, whether or not he is aware of it. Why? To protect my rights in a "He said/She said" kind of situation.

    This is the kind of issue I'd like to see the ACLU get involved in.

  13. Mumwaldee

    Mumwaldee member

    Wasn't there a couple of similar stories here lately. One was the guy who was audio taping the police in Cali I think because he was being harassed and stopped on a daily basis...charged with wiretapping....and the other one was the guy asking for the LEO's name after video taping a stop and then got tossed in the clink for a night or two and came away with 8500 bucks for his trouble thanks to the ACLU?

    This is totally outrageous...I myself am thinking of carrying a cam-corder full time in my car and if I get stopped the first words out of my mouth will be "you don't mind if I record this do you?"
  14. Hypnogator

    Hypnogator Well-Known Member

    FWIW, it's against Federal law to record a conversation between two or more people without either (1) a warrant, or (2) the consent of at least one party to the conversation. Many truck drivers carry "dispatch buster" tape recorders that they use to tape record conversations between themselves and their dispatchers, so if they wind up at the wrong place and their company tries to dock their pay, they can prove they were sent to the wrong place. This is legal under Federal law. However, some states, apparently including PA, have statutes, that prohibit recording conversations unless all parties to the conversation consent. That's what got the kid in trouble. The video tape would have been legal, had the camera not recorded the officer's voice as well as image.
  15. gc70

    gc70 Well-Known Member

    This article from the website of Pennsylvania's Attorney General is interesting.

    Despite the 'limiting' language and the claim the law is "all about privacy," I would bet that law enforcement officers have standing 'prior approval' for cameras in their cruisers.
  16. Jeff White

    Jeff White Moderator Staff Member

    There is a confusing maze of laws regarding the recording of conversations. And most of the laws that require consent of both parties to record a conversation came about because elected officials were the ones being burned.

    When video was first available in squad cars we had to turn the microphones off in Illinois because the law required knowledge and consent of all parties to a conversation. The laws has since been changed and we can record audio as well as video on traffic stops in Illinois now.

    It's always a good idea to check the local laws before you break out your tape recorder.

  17. Titan6

    Titan6 member

    In Texas you can record phone calls with single party consent. IOW you can tape a conversation you are a party to so long as the conversation takes place within Texas. Some states require both parties.

    I would think that police actions would be a matter of public record and therefore fair game but I am no lawyer. Sounds like a job for the ACLU.
  18. Caimlas

    Caimlas Well-Known Member

    Is that so? How could that be? I mean, cops have cameras in their cars, so they're recording a cop every time he makes a traffic stop. Why aren't they being prosecuted for it, then? Ohhh wait.

    WHAT BS.
  19. Geno

    Geno Well-Known Member

    Thank God for Michigan's common sense. I can record anyone via audio or video anytime so long as at least one person in the room, or on the line is aware that a recording is being generated. Let me tell you, I am a very strong advocate of recordings! So many people lie unless they are on recording. Videos are best, but I'll settle for audio. When I was an administrator, I made numerous recordings.

    We need consistent nation-wide laws. There are too many variances between Michigan, or any other state. That is wrong. If a cop can record me, by cracky I can record them, and I will. I also say every car, truck, ect made in America should have video/audio. It would cut down on lawsuits from accidents, and keep a lot of people from being needlessly arrested. JMHO.

  20. deanf

    deanf Well-Known Member

    And where would the authority for these nation-wide (federal) laws come from? 'cause it doesn't exist now.

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