According to the law of 38 states, it is completely legal to video tape the police while they are performing their duties. The law outlines that as long as you don’t interfere with the work of the officers, you are completely entitled to tape a policeman on duty. But there have been cases, where police officials have taken individuals to court, charged with illegally spying on them, wire-tapping them or videotaping them on duty. In most cases, the charges are later dropped, since the law allows citizens to tape the performance of the law enforcers.
While it is legal to tape the police, many untrained officials do not know that and may see you as a spy or a threat. Many others tend to harass and even arrest you for taping them. This is most common in cases if you are caught taping the officer harassing or beating someone else, or if the officer believes that you have suspicious intentions for doing so.
If you want to videotape the police, there are some rules you need to know about.
Rule Number 1: Know the State Law
While it is legal to tape the police, it is still a good idea and one rule you need to follow, to know about the statutes of the state relating to the taping of law enforcers. 38 states allow you liberty to tape the police, but the enforcement officers might still confiscate your camera or arrest you for misdemeanor, but you cannot be charged since it is not illegal.
It is likewise important to know that there are 12 states which require consent of all parties for you to record a conversation, while two of them have a policy of expectation of privacy provision which does not apply to on duty officers. Make sure you know about the state law before you start taping a policeman on duty.
Rule Number 2: Don’t Do Any Secret Recording
It is quite a common law in most states that you don’t have the right to record a conversation without the prior consent of both the parties. So, if you want to tape a video of the police, do so openly. Openly recording the police is not illegal, while states like Massachusetts and Illinois have strict laws about even openly recording videos of police in public.
The only way to avoid any kind of legal action is to do it openly, proving that you have nothing to hide.
Rule Number 3: Be Ready To Deal with Cops
It is to be expected that an officer will ask you about your intentions while you are filming them. Be prepared to answer clearly that you are just exercising your First Amendment Right and that you are recording them. Tell them you aren’t interfering in their work.
The police might ask for identification, and might even detain you if they are suspicious. If they say that it is illegal to videotape activities, you can calmly share your knowledge of your right to tape their activities. Avoid a confrontation and if the police ask you to step back as they perform their duty, it is best to do so, so that you don’t interfere with their work.
Rule Number 4: Don’t Hold The Camera Like A Gun
Avoid an aggressive pose, and maintain eye contact while talking to the police and looking at the viewfinder to make sure that you are getting the right recording.
Follow these rules for your own safety. If you have been charged with a case for videotaping the police or want to know the legal details and laws about having the right to tape law enforcers, contact Kosnett Law for assistance.