Recently, there have been many incidents involving bystanders recording the police. These encounters between the police and citizens have occurred across America bringing a national spotlight to the issue. If you choose to record the police, you should know your rights.
Is it always legal to film the police?
As long as you are in a public place, you can legally film the police in most cases. This right is protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution.
When is it not OK?
Recording the police becomes a problem when they believe you are “interfering” with police duties. But the definition of interfering depending on each individual case and jurisdiction.
What to do if the police confront you?
If a police officer asks or tells you to turn your camera off, do you have to comply? Many experts advise calmly responding to the officer that you know you have the right to film them, as long as you are not interfering. For example, watch this uber driver / lawyer handle a situation where a police officer falsely tells him he cannot record the encounter.
Can the police take your phone or camera equipment?
The short answer is no. A 2014 Supreme Court ruling made it clear that in most cases, police officers cannot search your smartphone without a warrant. That said, there is the “exigent circumstances” exception, which allows searching if there’s an imminent danger.
It’s also illegal for police to delete any recordings or photos you have taken. These actions can be the basis of an expensive lawsuit.