Thursday, May 23, 2013

Our Rights To Film Cops in Public

I ran into this post the other day - filming cops in public can get you in trouble:

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A disturbing trend: many innocent Americans arrested for legally filming on-duty public servants

Madison Ruppert, Contributing Writer
Activist Post

In recent years an unsettling pattern in law enforcement interactions has emerged. American citizens, innocent of a crime, filming a public servant performing their duties in public, have been targeted and had their constitutionally protected rights destroyed.

The cases continue to pile up, some more disturbing and egregious than others. One of the most shocking examples is the case of the Las Vegas man, Mitchell Crooks, who was brutally assaulted by an on-duty police officer for filming the officer from his own property. [It goes on to give a number of other examples of photographers being harassed.]
I knew I'd written about this topic and it turns out that it was not quite a year ago - Photography is Not a Crime - Blogging, The First Amendment, and Your Camera.   It's an important enough topic for bloggers with cameras to be raised now and again.  That older post had three rules on how to film cops from Carlos Miller:
Get it on video.
Assert your rights.
Just leave.  
The link has the details]

I looked for something newer and found that the Illinois' Supreme Court upheld photographer's rights.

Aaron Dykes
November 26, 2012

The state of Illinois has some of the harshest “eavesdropping” laws on the books, and those statutes have been frequently abused to prosecute individuals for filming police actions in public in numerous cases.
Now, a fresh Supreme Court decision has declared this to be a violation of the First Amendment, refusing to hear an appeal from Cook County officials to allow prosecution of those recording cops, and instead upholding a lower court decision that resulted from an ACLU lawsuit.

Michael Zhang at Peta Pixal, in March of this year reports:

The US Department of Justice issued a statement this past Sunday that confirms the fact that the 1st, 4th, and 14th Amendment protect citizens’ rights to photograph police in public places.  (emphasis added)

The Statement of Interest document is a message to the US District Court in Maryland that it supports photojournalist Mannie Garcia in his lawsuit against the Montgomery County police. Garcia photographing police back in June 2011 when he was arrested and had his camera equipment (and photographs) taken away.  [Get the rest here.]

Below is a quote from the United States District Court in Maryland Court Decision.  It says that citizens, not just journalists, have First Amendment rights to record police conduct and other items of public interest:
"Courts have long held that recordings made by private citizens of police conduct or other items of public interest are entitled to First Amendment protection. See, e.g. , Glik , 655 F.3d at 84-85 (findingFirst Amendment right to record “clearly established”); Smith , 212 F.3d at 1333; Fordyce , 55 F.3d at439; Blackston v. Alabama , 30 F.3d 117, 120-21 (11th Cir. 1994); Lambert v. Polk Cnty. , 723 F. Supp.128, 133 (S.D. Iowa 1989). Similarly, the Supreme Court has established that journalists are not entitled to greater First Amendment protections than private individuals. See,e.g. , Nixon v. Warner Comm., Inc. ,435 U.S. 589, 608-09 (1978) (“The First Amendment generally grants the press no right to information Case 8:12-cv-03592-JFM Document 15 Filed 03/04/13 Page 12 of 13 13 about a trial superior to that of the general public.”); Branzburg , 408 U.S. at 684 (“It has generally been held that the First Amendment does not guarantee the press a constitutional right of special access to information not available to the public generally.”) (citing cases). Thus, this Court should make clear that Mr. Garcia’s status as a credentialed journalist does not influence its analysis of his First Amendment right to document police activity occurring in public."
The judge seems to be going out of his way to say that Mr. Garcia isn't winning because he's a journalist, but simply because he's a citizen.  I guess that's good for citizens, does it have downsides for journalists?  I'm not sure.  I'm glad everyone is protected, but is there some inherent loss for journalists?  I don't know.

This part of the decision might be a good thing to have on one's person if one might be filming cops who might object.  A way to follow Miller's second rule:  Assert your rights.

Don't take this as the last word on this.  Just a little more info to think about when you want to whip out your camera and take video in public.  

[UPDATE:  See July 30, 2013 post including video on filming Swedish cops.]

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