The National Trial Lawyers
Expertise 2020
Expertise 2016
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Cops Hate Cell Phones

Cops Hate Cell PhonesYea, maybe “hate” is too strong a word, but why not….Let’s face it, government officials do not like technology because it allows the rest of the world to see what they’re up to. Remember Egypt? When the uprising came, there were government attempts to shut down the internet. Well, the same thing is happening here in Orlando.

Example #1: a few years ago, all of the Orange County Sheriff patrol cars had video cameras running full time. Unfortunately for them, this led to massive defense wins in DUI cases. Occassionally, a roadside video will surface, but rarely, and only if the defendant is falling down drunk while attempting field sobriety tests (FST’s). Somehow, the really really bad videos are released, even though most of the cameras have been removed from the patrol cars. Without video, the jury must simply take the word of the police officer regarding a DUI defendant’s sobriety. Just another thing that makes you go “hum”.

Even with the removal of the video cameras once found in Orange County patrol cars, cell phones have brought the power to the people. That’s right. Most people now have video cameras built into their cell phones. So, is it legal to video tape an officer doing his job in public? Probably, depending upon where you live.

Citizen journalists are protected by the First Amendment when recording government officials in public places. Some jurisdictions have attempted to “protect” the police by enacting anti-recording statutes, such as the Illinois Eavesdropping Act. This Act makes the audio-recording of police officers a felony under certain circumstances. Wow, is this law some type of cruel joke? Let’s hope such statutes eventually get struck down.

2018 Update: I don’t usually update articles, and I have written over 400 articles, but I wanted to let you know that during the eight or so years since I wrote this article, things have gotten better on this front. We now have body-cams. And, fewer folks are getting arrested for video taping government officials doing their job. Here’s a quote confirming such:

Every Circuit Court of Appeals to address this issue (First, Fifth, Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh) has held that there is a First Amendment right to record police activity in public. See Turner v. Lieutenant Driver, 848 F.3d 678 (5th Cir. 2017); Gericke v. Begin, 753 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2014); Am. Civil Liberties Union of Ill. v. Alvarez, 679 F.3d 583 (7th Cir. 2012); Glik v. Cunniffe, 655 F.3d 78 (1st Cir. 2011); Smith v. City of Cumming, 212 F.3d 1332 (11th Cir. 2000); Fordyce v. City of Seattle, 55 F.3d 436 (9th Cir. 1995). Today we join this growing consensus. Simply put, the First Amendment protects the act of photographing, filming, or otherwise recording police officers conducting their official duties in public. [emphasis added]

Fields v. City of Philadelphia, 862 F.3d 353, 355-56 (3d Cir. 2017).

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