Legal Questions? / Legal Answers!

Can I Record The Police?

"This issue has been debated quite a lot in 2016. I've been asked by many of my friends just what the laws were pertaining to Recording The Police. I explained that I believe we are all set as the First Amendment protected our right to do so. I was asked if I was sure about this and decided to make sure. Below are the Laws listed from the U.S. Court Of Appeals which proves the First amendment protects our right to record the police.

  • Video Or Audio Taping Police Officers

A number of U.S. Courts of Appeals have held that, in such circumstances, the First Amendment protects the right to record audio and video regardless of whether the police/officials consent. This constitutional right would override any state or federal laws that would otherwise prohibit such recording.

Currently, the following U.S. Courts of Appeals have recognized the First Amendment right to record the police and/or other public officials:

First Circuit (with jurisdiction over Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, and Rhode Island): see Glik v. Cunniffe, 655 F.3d 78, 85 (1st Cir. 2011) ("[A] citizen's right to film government officials, including law enforcement officers, in the discharge of their duties in a public space is a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment."); Iacobucci v. Boulter, 193 F.3d 14 (1st Cir. 1999) (police lacked authority to prohibit citizen from recording commissioners in town hall "because [the citizen's] activities were peaceful, not performed in derogation of any law, and done in the exercise of his First Amendment rights[.]").

If you own a dash cam this is good news because it protects you as well as the Police. Remember though, most of the inexpensive dash cams do not offer audio recording. Shop accordingly.

However, if you intend to use your cell phone to record the police I'd like to remind you how easy it is to request your phone based on believing you were texting while driving. (See Cell Phones)

My Final Thought...

"I believe this right to record protects all involved. Nowadays everything that is questioned can usually be answered through video tape. I must also add that this First Amendment right also allows the Police and State to video you. Of course that proof is very evident on Police Dash Cams as well as most intersections we now drive through. After 911 we went full force with cameras being installed almost everywhere. Although both sides are protected by the First Amendment, it seems our privacy sometimes has to be given up... to protect our rights."

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