Can You Film A Police Officer When You Are Stopped?

Can You Film A Police Officer When You Are Stopped?

Since the invention of the smartphone, people have increasingly been recording police officers on duty. In many of these videos, the officers have asked or told the person holding the phone to stop recording. Sometimes, the person refuses but is then threatened with arrest or the use of force. To find out if police officers can legally make this request, start by asking, “Can you film a police officer when you are stopped?” If you have questions about the right to film police officers when they are on duty, consider contacting Chuck Franklin directly at Chuck Franklin Law by calling (602) 932-0659.

Can Police Take Your Phone if You Record Them?

If a person films a police officer in a public space, the officer will usually be unable to confiscate or even view the photographs or video footage without a valid warrant. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, even if the police arrest the person, they may not look at the contents of his or her cell phone unless they have a warrant. In addition, the police cannot delete any video footage or photographs. These rules also apply to digital cameras. Therefore, those who are photographing or filming police officers may want to clearly decline any consent to a search of their digital devices.

Can Police Film You Without Your Consent?

Police officers can film individuals without their consent in public places, as this often assists with evidence gathering. Despite this, police officers cannot film individuals in private settings without their consent. If a police officer is in someone’s home, for example, then he or she must get that individual’s consent before filming.

Can You Film Inside a Police Station?

While there is no law banning filming inside a police station, many police departments prohibit filming to protect the identities of undercover police officers, victims, and witnesses who may be on the premises. Therefore, filming inside a police station is normally subject to any policies that department has in place. For instance, a police chief may allow filming in some areas of the police station but prohibit the practice in secure areas. Due to this, it is advisable to ask about the policies before beginning to film inside a police station.

What To Do if You Witness Police Brutality or Abuse

Asking the question, “Can you film a police officer when you are stopped?” often brings up the next question. What should you do if you think you are witnessing police brutality or abuse and want to record the incident? Below are some steps to follow when a person is faced with this scenario:

  1. Record the incident — When recording, stand far enough away to avoid interfering with the incident and to avoid obstructing anyone’s movements
  2. Avoid hiding what you are doing — While police officers have no reasonable expectation of privacy when fulfilling their roles, other individuals involved in the incident may have those rights. According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, many states require the individual filming to immediately notify everyone else of what they are doing
  3. Politely and firmly decline police requests — If a police officer tells you to cease recording or asks for the phone, be polite and firm as you decline and inform them of the right to film or take photographs per the First Amendment
  4. Consider the risks — Sometimes, a police officer may arrest a person for refusing an order to stop recording. While an arrest for this reason may be unlawful, one must consider the risk and determine whether it is worthwhile to continue recording
  5. Make a note of the key details — Even if you are unable to continue recording an incident on your digital device, make a note of the details, including the police officer’s patrol car and badge number, the number of officers involved, their names, whether they used any weapons, the name of the victim or victims, and whether anyone involved sustained any injuries

If you or a loved one was arrested after an incident, contact Chuck Franklin directly to learn more about your legal rights.

When Is It Prohibited to Film the Police?

Police officers can legally order members of the public to stop filming or photographing if they are genuinely interfering with police operations. Often, these officers know that their operations are open to scrutiny due to video recordings or photographs. The right to photograph and film the police also does not permit citizens to break other laws in order to record. For instance, if a person trespasses on private property in order to take video footage or photographs of police officers, he or she can be charged with trespassing.

Do Police Officers Have a Right to Privacy?

Police officers are also private citizens. Like all private citizens, they do expect some degree of privacy in certain circumstances. If a police officer is off duty or engaged in a private phone conversation or a private discussion outside a public place, then he or she has a right to privacy. Generally, any photographs or video footage of police officers in private settings are likely to be unlawful, unless gathering such evidence is clearly in the public interest.

On-duty police officers, however, often do not have a right to privacy, as they are public figures in the public eye. The exact rules regarding whether police officers have a right to privacy can vary depending on the state, so it can be helpful to be aware of any applicable rules or policies when visiting away from home.

Discover how an Arizona Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You

If stopped by the police, it can be useful to know the answer to this question: “Can you film a police officer when you are stopped?” Your recordings or photographs may be protected. If you or a loved one has been threatened with charges or been arrested for recording the police, a seasoned attorney may be able to help. Consider contacting Chuck Franklin directly to discuss your right to film the police by calling (602) 932-0659.

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