A man in Wadesboro, NC was arrested on disorderly conduct charges for nothing more than flipping the bird to a cop as he drove by. [click to continue…]


It’s an ongoing issue—where people film police, the police get mad, and said citizen ends up harassed or worse, under arrest. But in the vast majority of states filming the police is protected if you do it right. Knowing where your state stands on the issue can help you make informed decisions when it comes to hitting record.

Another arrestAccording to this illustration, 38 states allow for the recording of police officers. But, you can’t get in their face and expect them to smile. If you interfere with their work, you will be subject to arrest. Getting in their way, shouting, and trying to get a better angle are all sure-fire ways of convincing the cops that you mean to interfere. In other words, don’t do it.

Similarly, know that this protection doesn’t mean the police will like it or even silently accept it. This even happens to news media, such as in this video:

The fact that you are recording them will likely get on their nerves and they will tell you. Recording the police could open you up for harassment. The cops could also walk a thin line by detaining you or confiscating your camera. They may even try to arrest you under disorderly conduct laws. Remember though: you have rights.
Within the past year, courts in two states have had to remind their cops that the wiretapping laws there don’t apply to citizens recording police in public areas. In Massachusetts and Illinois, wiretapping laws were used to arrest citizens but the courts ruled in favor of police accountability and the charges didn’t stand.In 12 of the states that don’t broadly allow for recording of officers, you must have the consent of all involved to record. These states include: California, Florida, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Washington, Michigan, and Massachusetts. The chances of getting a police officer to consent to a recording, as you might well imagine, are pretty slim. Fortunately, if the recording is going on in a public place, the requirements are different. There, most of these states agree that the police have no expectation of privacy and recording can be done without permission.

While it’s taking a few years for police to get the idea, you could still be arrested for filming, particularly in those 12 states mentioned above. Know that any charges for publicly filming police in these states could be beaten in court

Citizens should be able to hold police accountable for the things they do in public while behind the badge. After all, we pay their salaries and it’s us (the citizens) who they are supposed to be protecting.

If you are arrested for an incident involving the recording of police, we may be able to put you in touch with someone who can help.



NYPD Targets Harlem Activist Couple Who Films Stop-and-Frisks

October 8, 2012

Matthew Swaye, 35, and Christina Gonzalez, 25, stand up for what they believe is wrong. They protest, they get involved, and they record police. Both have been arrested several times for their civil disobedience, but the NYPD may have went a little far when posting flyers about the couple—warning the police to watch out for […]

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Few Arrests at Tampa’s RNC

September 4, 2012

Four years ago, when the Republican National Convention was held in Minneapolis, more than 800 people were arrested. That same year, 154 arrests were made at the DNC in Denver. But so far this year’s conventions have been unexciting, at least in regards to civil unrest and police action.

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Human Rights’ Lawyers Say Journalists’ Rights Were Violated During Occupy Protests

August 2, 2012

Occupy Wall Street was just one fraction of the Occupy protests that took over the country last year around this time. But it was the most publicized and it spawned the other protests from all corners of the nation. A report this week detailed that the protestors weren’t the only ones possibly facing unlawful arrest […]

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Anaheim Quieting Down After Cops, Protestors Clash

July 27, 2012

It’s been a tumultuous past week in Anaheim, as police clashed with protestors following the police-killings of two men, one of which was unarmed. Mayor Tom Tait has said the Office of the U.S. Attorney has agreed to investigate the shootings and has asked the people of Anaheim to remain calm while the investigation takes […]

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Can Your Tweets Be Used Against You in Court?

July 6, 2012

The majority of what people put into the Twittersphere is pretty harmless and certainly not criminal. But the Manhattan District Attorney’s office wants to be able to subpoena your tweets and a state judge in New York has agreed.

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Are Houston Cops Looking to Enforce Noise Ordinance on Slow Nights?

June 18, 2012

A recent blog post at Free Press Houston shines a light on Houston police and just how they might be looking to make arrests, even when none are warranted. Perhaps it was a slow night in the city when they arrested Lauren Garcia for being intoxicated on her own property. But the official charges were […]

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D*#n! Mass Town Outlaws Swearing in Public

June 15, 2012

Downtown business owners were among some of the people who supported the Middleborough, Mass. Police Chief’s proposal to ban cursing in public. When the residents voted and the issue passed 183-50, it became apparent they weren’t the only ones.

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Video Recording Cops At Occupy Protest Crucial – Gets Charges Dropped

May 23, 2012

A lot has been said lately on the peoples’ right to record officers in the line of duty. And with everyone carrying a recording device on their phones, it’s an issue that’s not soon to go away. But in a recent case out of New York, an example of just how crucial such footage is […]

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