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Recording Police Officers: Legal or Not?

Who doesn’t remember the Rodney King video? George Holliday, the man who recorded the video from his apartment balcony in 1991, contacted the police station about his video, but was (conveniently?) ignored. He then sent the video to a TV station that aired it in its entirety and the rest is history.

With the advent of smartphones, we can all now record others with just the touch of a button. We can upload our videos directly to Facebook, Twitter, or even YouTube instantly, where the content can quickly spread to thousands, if not millions.

State legislatures have grown concerned and have implemented laws to prevent audio or video recording without consent. Some states have “all-party consent” laws, meaning that one must get the permission of each and every person in a video before recording takes place.  Illinois and Massachusetts, in particular, have made it a felony to record someone without their permission. Conviction of this crime can carry anywhere from four to 15 years in prison! In these states recording of unsuspecting police officers is a crime.

The United States Supreme Court has weighed in, effectively overruling these laws. They recently allowed a decision of the 7th Circuit Court of appeal to stand. That decision blocked enforcement of Illinois’ laws against recording. By refusing to hear the case, the Supreme Court has essentially told us that we have a first amendment right to record police officers in the performance of their duties.

If you or a loved one is wrongfully arrested for recording police officers, call criminal defense lawyer Staycie R. Sena immediately at (949) 477-8088 for a free consultation.