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Know Your Rights When Filming and Photographing The Police


Image: Jamelle Bouie / Wikipedia Commons. http://jamellebouie.net/about/
Image: Jamelle Bouie / Wikipedia Commons. http://jamellebouie.net/about/


Recent events in the national media have raised questions about the legality of videotaping law enforcement. According to an article recently posted online at The Atlantic, the police shouldn’t ask you to stop filming them as they’re in a public place, carrying out their public service, and are naturally and legally subject to being recorded in public areas.

So, simply put, you do have the right to film police in public areas. However, you do not have the right to film when it’s interfering with the scene. Even if a police officer tells you to stop filming, and tells you you’re interfering with his or her job, he or she is NOT allowed to destroy the film, delete anything on your camera (or phone).

From the article in The Atlantic: “Photography is a form of power, and people are loath to give up power, including police officers. It’s a power struggle where the citizen is protected by the law but, because it is a power struggle, sometimes that’s not enough,” says Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Additionally, police officers cannot confiscate or demand to view the audio or video you’ve recorded without a warrant. Even with a warrant, they cannot delete files. In short, it is recommended that you do not interfere with law enforcement, but legally, you have the right to videotape them from a reasonable distance if it does not interfere with their activities.

Winter Street Law Group offers civil and criminal legal defense services. Call 775-786-5800 or visit Winter Street Law Group online.


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