Is Recording the Police Legal?

The criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Douglas T. Sachse explain the protocol for recording police officers when they are performing their duties.

With the increasing number of police misconduct cases circulating through media outlets across the nation, more bystanders are pulling out their cellphones or other devices to record officers. As citizens become increasingly concerned about the safety of fellow Americans, they want to capture live footage as evidence to support their claims in the event they suspect wrongdoing. However, do innocent spectators have a right to record police officers interacting with people in the first place?

The short answer is yes, people are legally allowed to record police officers while they are performing their duties. Almost every court has determined that the right to record police officers in public, which includes capturing pictures, video and audio, is protected under the First Amendment. The rationale behind this conclusion is that recording such actions qualify as freedom of speech and the act of sharing that footage qualifies at freedom of the press. Additionally, the courts have discovered that freedom of the press applies to both professional and citizen journalists.

However, there are exceptions to this right. There are limits associated with recording officers that relate to the time, manner and place of recording. It is illegal for people to record police officers if they are interfering with officers while they are performing their jobs or if the person recording breaks another law while trying to get footage.

Police officers deal with many verbal and physical distractions while on the job in public. There are situations in which they have to enforce the law to the best of their abilities despite these distractions, yet there are times when they need to address a more pressing matter at hand. Interfering with police officers or obstructing their abilities to enforce the law simply to obtain footage is illegal and could result in criminal charges.

Additionally, the right to record police officers does not give citizens the right to break laws in the process of recording. For example, if you must trespass on private property or perform disorderly conduct to capture footage, your act of recording could result in your prosecution. However, it’s important to note that every situation is different and while some officers could pursue the arrest of the person recording, others may be more tolerant.

There are many supplementary regulations associated with this act that vary by jurisdiction, so it’s imperative that you consult with a criminal defense attorney if you find yourself in trouble with the law. If you’ve been arrested or prosecuted with charges related to recording officers, consult with a reputable, knowledgeable attorney as he or she will be able to provide you with the necessary information needed to address your situation.

For more information about recording police officers or how it affects your individual circumstance, contact the criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Douglas T. Sachse.

Recent News

| Individuals who injure themselves in a slip-and-fall incident on a storeowner’s property may seek recourse against the store under certain Read More

| Last year, Maryland legislators drafted a law making “blocking the box”—the act of waiting in the middle of an intersection Read More

| DUI checkpoints are legal in the state of Maryland, however, there are several misconceptions and misunderstandings people have about these Read More

Quick Contact
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.