Between all the recent cases where police have been accused of sexual abuse, racism and brutality, it’s hardly surprising that more and more people are choosing to film their interactions with the police. Encinitas defense lawyer Peter M. Liss offers these tips for those who want to record their experiences with the police.
- Know your rights. Generally speaking, many people trust police to know the law and enforce it, but many police do not know the rights regarding filming a police officer and some will tell you incorrect information. In California, it is legal to film on-duty police officers in a public space or federal, state, or city property. If you are on private property, you will need the permission of the property owner in order to film. You do not have the right to film another person interacting with the police without their knowledge, but holding your camera at an appropriate height and making it easy to tell that you are filming can serve as your notification, so police cannot use this law against you as long as you are making your filming obvious.
- Keep your distance. While you are allowed to film police, they can tell you that you need to stay a certain distance away from a crime scene and you need to stay out of the officer’s way. If a police officer asks you to move, you can move your camera down to your feet and back up to show the distance you are standing from the action and then do so again after you have moved a few feet. Unfortunately, the distance is up to the officer’s discretion. If the officer keeps pushing you back until you’re too far away, you may choose to make a stand, but be prepared that you may get arrested and may need to invoke your right to speak to a San Marcos criminal lawyer.
- Be polite. As stated above, many police do not know the laws regarding a person’s right to film the police. If you calmly explain that you are invoking your rights and that you believe it is best for everyone to have a documented copy of what is taking place, police officers who do not know the law may allow you to keep filming. On the other hand, saying something like “I don’t trust you,” or “I want to make sure you don’t beat someone” is a good way to make any officer act adversarial.
- Back up your data. When an officer blocks your camera, it is violating your First Amendment rights, but some officers go even further, demanding a person delete their footage or even breaking a person’s camera. While these activities are entirely unconstitutional, they do still happen, which is why you should use an app like Bambuser that will upload your footage to the cloud as you shoot it so all of your video will be protected no matter what happens. If a police officer breaks your camera or forces you to delete your footage before charging you with a crime, be sure to tell your Oceanside defense attorney that your rights were violated in this way.
- Obey all other laws. Do not jaywalk, riot, participate in an unlawful assembly or otherwise violate the law while filming or you will give the police a reason to detain or arrest you and stop your filming.
If you were arrested while attempting to record the police, please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation with top Fallbrook criminal lawyer Peter M. Liss.
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