Print 69 comment(s) - last by espaghetti.. on Sep 15 at 12:09 PM

The filming of government officials while on duty is protected by the First Amendment, said the Court

The First Circuit Court of Appeals reached a crucial decision last Friday allowing the public to videotape police officers while they're on the clock.

The decision comes after a string of incidents where individuals have videotaped police officers and were arrested. Police officers across the United States believed citizens didn't have the right to videotape them as they conducted official duties, but issues like police brutality put the issue up for debate.

One instance where a citizen was arrested for videotaping an officer was when Khaliah Fitchette, a law-abiding teenager from New Jersey, boarded a bus in Newark. Two police officers boarded the bus as well to remove a drunken man. Fitchette began taping the police officers because of how they were handling the man, and a police officer instructed her to stop recording them. When Fitchette refused, she was arrested and placed in the back of a cop car for two hours while the officers took her phone to delete the video. Fitchette was then released, but she and her mother then filed suit against the Newark Police Department with the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Another example involves Simon Glik, a passerby on the Boston Common. He used his cell phone to tape police officers when the Boston police were punching a man. Citizens surrounding the scene were saying, "You're hurting him." Glik never interfered with the police officers' actions, but recorded the entire incident. The police officers ended up charging Glik with violating a wiretap statute that prohibits secret recording, even though the police officers admitted that they knew Glik was recording them. He was also charged with disturbing the peace and aiding the escape of a prisoner.

While all charges against Glik were dropped due to lack of merit, he still decided to join forces with the ACLU and file a civil rights suit to prevent a similar incident from occurring with others.

On Friday, August 26, 2011, the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which is New England's highest federal court just below the U.S. Supreme Court, ruled that citizens are allowed to videotape law officials while they conduct official duties.

The city's attorneys made the argument that police officers should have been exempt from a civil rights lawsuit in the first place in this case because the law is unclear as to whether there's a "constitutionally protected right to videotape police" conducting their daily duties in public.

"The filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities, fits comfortably within these principles [of protected First Amendment activity].," said the Court. "Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting the free discussion of governmental affairs."

The Court added that the police officers should have understood this all along, and that videotaping public officials is not limited to the press.

"Moreover, changes in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw," the Court continued. "The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status."

The Court concluded that police officers are to expect to deal with certain "burdens" as citizens practice First Amendment rights, but that there needs to be a healthy balance between police officers being videotaped while acting irresponsibly and the harassment of officers with recording devices while they're conducting their duties responsibly.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Public vs. private
By Motoman on 8/31/2011 1:52:08 PM , Rating: 5
...if you read more about the decision, IIRC it has verbiage that seems to indicate the notion of recording police actions *in public* as being OK.

...but what if Jonny Law mistakenly busts my door down looking for a meth lab (that's actually at Dave's house across the street - but Dave's not there, man), then proceeds to shoot my dog and punch my wife? If I manage to whip out my phone and record that, in my private home, am I protected by this ruling?

RE: Public vs. private
By Reclaimer77 on 8/31/2011 2:16:43 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, even more so. Especially in a "Castle" state.

RE: Public vs. private
By MrBlastman on 8/31/2011 2:36:19 PM , Rating: 5
In a "Castle" state, you can do more than whip out your camera in that instance...

RE: Public vs. private
By The0ne on 9/1/2011 2:53:34 PM , Rating: 3
Nice one, got me laughing :) Thanks.

RE: Public vs. private
By tastyratz on 8/31/2011 3:28:12 PM , Rating: 2
Castle doctrine indicates your ability to defend your home with force. Unless you plan on bludgeoning the officer to death with your flip mino as you feel threatened, that does not apply.

RE: Public vs. private
By Bad-Karma on 9/1/2011 9:55:00 AM , Rating: 4
My home happens to have 360 CCTV coverage plus several strategic views on the inside. It was necessitated by a breakin and then an attempted home invasion while only my wife was home a few years back (Tucson).

If you cross my threshold without a warrant, and I didn't invite you, you're getting 3" 12 gauge mag 00Buck & sabot slugs until one of us goes down. It doesn't matter if they're in a uniform or not. The cameras are there for evidence in support of Castle Law.

RE: Public vs. private
By quiksilvr on 9/1/2011 2:46:08 PM , Rating: 3
Can you friend me on Facebook? :D

RE: Public vs. private
By therealnickdanger on 9/2/2011 8:55:55 AM , Rating: 3
Well done!

There was a time when you didn't even need cameras to prove anything. *sigh*

RE: Public vs. private
By Jeffk464 on 8/31/2011 9:44:00 PM , Rating: 2

For those that think cops don't need to be watched.

RE: Public vs. private
By Brandon Hill on 8/31/2011 2:20:32 PM , Rating: 5
If I manage to whip out my phone and record that, in my private home, am I protected by this ruling?

It's a moot point -- you'd be dead. You see, by reaching in your pocket to retrieve your phone, you've now become a threat which can only be neutralized with multiple chest shots ;)

RE: Public vs. private
By Motoman on 8/31/2011 3:08:48 PM , Rating: 4
Well, that's it then...I have no choice but to booby trap my doors and windows with claymores.

*ding dong*

Yay! Grandma's here!



RE: Public vs. private
By Rinadien on 8/31/2011 3:24:31 PM , Rating: 4
At that point grandma would be pretty much... everywhere...

RE: Public vs. private
By borismkv on 8/31/2011 5:35:08 PM , Rating: 2
"Where's Grandma?"
"Over der, over der, and up der."

RE: Public vs. private
By bah12 on 8/31/2011 4:14:34 PM , Rating: 3
Aww but this would be just as illegal as running the meth lab, as there are multiple laws against booby trapping even when faced with almost certain looting.

RE: Public vs. private
By cmdrdredd on 8/31/2011 5:05:33 PM , Rating: 5
My home has 24/7 video surveillance that I can access in multiple locations. Even if you take my HDD and take the SD cards out of the camera I can still retreive the video somewhere. There is nothing any officer can do about it...I am allowed to videotape my private residence.

RE: Public vs. private
By JediJeb on 9/1/2011 7:10:15 PM , Rating: 2
Well that case in Chicago a while back said that even in your private home you were not allowed to videotape police officers if they enter you home. I hope this will also put a stop to that policy though in Chicago I doubt it will be easy to change the laws.

RE: Public vs. private
By rika13 on 9/2/2011 4:19:35 AM , Rating: 3
Under Illinois law, its the same sentence (class 1 felony) to record a cop as it would be to bash him in the face with a baseball bat.

RE: Public vs. private
By JW.C on 9/3/2011 5:36:27 AM , Rating: 2
The courts ruling males the Illinois law unconstitutional. Which is fine since this was headed to the SCoTUS anyway

RE: Public vs. private
By mritter1981 on 8/31/2011 4:48:09 PM , Rating: 2
Which means, if you are in Ohio you are safe. They probably won't even hit the wall behind you. (Anyone remember the 3 officers firing on a white Suburban at point blank? They didn't even hit the Suburban, much less the suspects inside)

RE: Public vs. private
By Natch on 8/31/2011 2:24:42 PM , Rating: 3
That might depend more on the "protect your castle" laws in your state. I know where I live, if the police enter my home, forcibly, without clearly announcing themselves, I can blow them away just as if they were common thugs trying to do a home invasion.

You could always argue that the answer to your question lies in the fact that once they've broken down your door, they have violated the privacy of your home, and introduced "the public" to it. Thus, you are no longer private, but public, and covered in videotaping them. No different than if you had security cameras, and a DVR, set up inside your home.

RE: Public vs. private
By Brandon Hill on 8/31/2011 2:24:42 PM , Rating: 2
Texas? ;)

RE: Public vs. private
By dgingeri on 8/31/2011 3:17:59 PM , Rating: 2
Probably Colorado. :)

Here in Colorado, if someone busts in, (even police if they don't identify themselves clearly as such) anything I do in the course of protecting my home, short of setting traps, is legal. I could beat the guy until the police arrive, break all his fingers, set him on fire, whatever, and it would be perfectly legal. Anything automated is not covered as protection, though.

RE: Public vs. private
By Jeffk464 on 8/31/2011 4:40:50 PM , Rating: 5
Damn, I was thinking about buying those automated turrets from the "Aliens" movie.

RE: Public vs. private
By bupkus on 8/31/2011 6:45:13 PM , Rating: 5
I prefer the more polite soft spoken automated turrets from Aperture Science.

RE: Public vs. private
By sprockkets on 8/31/2011 11:36:08 PM , Rating: 3
"I don't blame you."

RE: Public vs. private
By Bad-Karma on 9/1/2011 9:57:51 AM , Rating: 2
I with you on that one, but when the smoke clears you've got to say "Game over man"!

RE: Public vs. private
By NES on 9/1/2011 12:53:09 PM , Rating: 3
...anything I do in the course of protecting my home, short of setting traps, is legal.

Quick! Somebody arrest Macaulay Culkin!

RE: Public vs. private
By Jeffk464 on 8/31/2011 4:39:28 PM , Rating: 2
The only thing is that unless you have it on video it will be assumed the police followed procedure.

RE: Public vs. private
By Jeffk464 on 8/31/2011 4:36:17 PM , Rating: 2
Hey, we won one for democracy and individual rights. I thought things were going the other way with the supreme court ruling that corporations should be allowed to buy elections.

Big thumbs up to the court.

RE: Public vs. private
By espaghetti on 8/31/11, Rating: -1
RE: Public vs. private
By snyper256 on 9/1/2011 5:31:27 PM , Rating: 2
RE: Public vs. private
By espaghetti on 9/15/2011 12:09:51 PM , Rating: 1
I was being sarcastic... geez

RE: Public vs. private
By Jeffk464 on 8/31/2011 4:37:51 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, it means that you are not allowed to film the cops when they are in a private place like their home, same as the rest of us. If you are out in public you have no expectation of privacy.

RE: Public vs. private
By twhittet on 8/31/2011 5:42:27 PM , Rating: 1
For the most part common sense should apply, but there will still be some gray areas. If police came to my work - could I videotape them? It's not public, and I don't own the building.

I would hope it would be ok (with permission of my company). If I released said video and my company was not ok with it, I would also hope they would simply sue me, and not have the police arrest me.

If I worked for a corrupt company and videotaped them dealing with a corrupt cop, I would not want to end up in jail for doing the right thing.

RE: Public vs. private
By Jeffk464 on 8/31/2011 4:45:16 PM , Rating: 2
Of course this means that we need an app that live streams video to a website so that when the cop unlawfully destroys your phone or the recording it still exists.

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins

Latest Headlines
Inspiron Laptops & 2-in-1 PCs
September 25, 2016, 9:00 AM
The Samsung Galaxy S7
September 14, 2016, 6:00 AM
Apple Watch 2 – Coming September 7th
September 3, 2016, 6:30 AM
Apple says “See you on the 7th.”
September 1, 2016, 6:30 AM

Most Popular ArticlesAre you ready for this ? HyperDrive Aircraft
September 24, 2016, 9:29 AM
Leaked – Samsung S8 is a Dream and a Dream 2
September 25, 2016, 8:00 AM
Inspiron Laptops & 2-in-1 PCs
September 25, 2016, 9:00 AM
Snapchat’s New Sunglasses are a Spectacle – No Pun Intended
September 24, 2016, 9:02 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki