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News Videotaping police a felony?

  1. Nov 30, 2010 #1


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    There was an article in a magazine I read pointing out the trend (alarming or not) of police officers confiscating cameras, or prosecuting individuals who video tape police interactions with private citizens.
    • In one case this year, a motorcyclist with a helmet video camera recorded a police officer drawing a gun on him during a traffic stop had his computers and cameras taken by police from his home for felony wiretapping for recording the incident.

      (Source: ABC News affiliate http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/0410/725740.html [Broken])​

    • In another case a man with home surveillance video was arrested and charged with felony wiretapping when he showed the video to police of a detective forcing his way into his private residence.

      (Source: The Nashua Telegraph: http://fnhp.com/thelist/Nashua-Gannon_Karlis.html [Broken])​

    • In another New Hampshire incident, a man was charged with felony wiretapping for videotaping the police response to an underage drinking party.

    • In Maryland, a women was arrested and her cell phone taken for trying to record an instance of abuse of power by police.

      (Source: Southern Maryland Newspapers: http://www.somdnews.com/stories/06162010/entetop162348_32195.shtml [Broken])​

    • There's a case in Boston of a man being charged with felony wiretapping for recording police at an anti-war rally.

    I believe this is a problematic trend and shows a desire for police to not be held accountable for their actions. Does anyone have other stories or a differing opinion?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
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  3. Nov 30, 2010 #2


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    What if you inform them that you're recording them as soon as they approach? Then they're no longer being recorded without their knowledge.

    I've thought about this previously, as I had been hassled by police officers multiple times. (Basically I drove an old 91 Acclaim with the trunk covered in punk band stickers, and used to play a lot of video games at a friends house until 2 or 3 in the morning, then I'd drive home. I never drank or did anything illegal, but every time I could tell the officer was hoping I'd be drunk or have drugs or something. Only violation I ever received was a citation for my tail lights "Not being red enough" as they had sun faded a little.)

    But as soon as I thought I should start recording these, I realized that its probably a violation of privacy to record someone without their knowledge. At least in Michigan I think the law is at least ONE of the party must know they are being recorded. This prohibits people from wiretapping others' phone lines.

    But I believe the officer can record your encounter without your knowledge; why should they get a special privilege?
  4. Nov 30, 2010 #3


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    I was thinking about installing a dashboard video camera to record any traffic stops from now on and putting a clearly visible sticker on my rear windshield that says "Warning to law enforcement: interaction with the driver is recorded." But I feel like this would just instigate altercations.

    Likely, the first thing they would say is: "turn off the camera." And I'll say: "Afraid of what it will see and hear?"

    Which is another double standard... "You don't have permission to search my car." "Afraid of what I'll find?"
  5. Nov 30, 2010 #4


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    Last edited: Nov 30, 2010
  6. Nov 30, 2010 #5


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    Well, actually, one of the goals of my post was to show that whether you (a) video tape a police officer entering your home without permission, or (b) video tape a police officer drawing a gun during a traffic stop on a highway (i.e. public or private), the reaction is the same: felony wiretapping.

    In the case of the home entry, the resident had signs clearly stating that his home was under constant video surveillance (as per the link). The motorcyclist had a camera on his helmet in plain view.

    The common thread seems not to be secretly videotaping someone. But rather that you've recorded a police faux pas. And instead of thanking the citizen for bringing forth the evidence of misconduct (arguable misconduct, of course), they are charged with a felony.

    Agreed. I selected a quote from it for my original post. I appreciate that you shared it with me.
  7. Nov 30, 2010 #6
    First, the very act of confiscating clearly indicates they have knowledge.

    Second, in almost all instances, it's a case of police overstepping the bounds of their authority, as videotaping activities occurring in public is legal. There are very few locals where it's legislated as being illegal, and even then, the constitutionality of such laws is highly questionable.

    In many more areas, the legality of personal video recorders used to record encounters with law enforcement and other citizens has been upheld as a legal, individual right with which the police cannot interfere. Indeed, cases where police have confiscated personal video recorders and returned them without the recorded encounter have been thrown out by judges who ruled that law enforcement had tampered with evidence. As a result, most law enforcement agencies these days are well-briefed to not interfere with or confiscate personal recording devices, and even if the individual is arrested, to have the individual turn off the unit during booking to ensure there's no question of police interference.
  8. Nov 30, 2010 #7
    Do the cops inform us that we are being recorded and video taped, since they all have dash cams, when they pull us over? As far as I recall, I have never been informed of that, usually all they ask is license and registration please.

    I read a pretty good article on a similar topic, other policemen who whistle blow on bad cops or have tried to stop beatings are the ones who are punished, the beaters are the ones who get exonerated and have their careers advanced. I'll try to find it.

    Imo, cops are above the law, because laws are written to protect cops at the expense of our rights.

    Edit: Here is the promised http://reason.com/archives/2010/10/18/americas-most-successful-stop" [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  9. Nov 30, 2010 #8


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    Get used to it.

    In their capacity as police officers, policemen DO have a stronger judicial status than the private citizen (including off-duty policemen).

    For example, they have the right to apprehend, with the necessary level of applied force, ordinary citizens they think should be apprehended.

    That doesn't make them "above the law" in general, but "above the laws regulating the private citizens' conduct"
  10. Nov 30, 2010 #9
    I don't know about America, but in the UK you can record anything that is "in the public domain" without a problem.

    You see a lot of police shows where cameramen follow the police and when the criminal complains they're told "tuff, it's in a public place and it's perfetly legal".

    However, I'm not sure about hidden cameras. I know on private property you have to inform people if you intend to use the images, not sure about public areas.
  11. Nov 30, 2010 #10
    Unless you are in a secret security zone - such as near an unmarked secret facility or near public transport or near any possible terrorist target, or in say london (section44)

    Or the photograph of a policeman might identify them (section 76)

    Or the police think your photo might be useful to terrorists (section 43)
  12. Nov 30, 2010 #11


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    The law in the US differs in each state, and even from town to town.

    In some states it is illegal to make an adio/video tape without consent of both parties, in most states secret taping is illegal.
  13. Nov 30, 2010 #12


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    Terrorism. The most convenient excuse for taking away our freedoms. We have the "Protect Ameica" act in the US. Which pretty much translates to the "Invade America's Privacy" act.

    But if you try to "invade" law enforcement's privacy, you're possibly contributing to terrorism.

    This is going in an excellent direction for my fascist regime.
  14. Nov 30, 2010 #13
    I wonder if this will end up becoming a Constitutional issue in federal courts.
  15. Nov 30, 2010 #14
    Funnily enough we didn't need bans on cameras in Trafalgar square for the 30years that we did actually have terrorist bombs exploding in England.
  16. Nov 30, 2010 #15
    Section 43 is regarding searching people. It is the power of the police to search people they deem may be a terrorist. So to use this they have to suspect you as a terrorist and pursue it as such. Better be some good evidence to back that up.

    Section 76, as above is relating to terrorism. To stop you they have to prove the link between you and terrorism. So far it appears people have only been asked to explain why they are taking pictures of police/armed forces etc.

    I point you to this quote here from Downing Street:
    There are no restrictions on taking photos. If you arouse suspiscion then you will be questioned.

    So far as public transport or otherwise, as above people have only been questioned as to why they are taking pictures, not stopped from what I've seen.

    EDIT: I'd also point you to the fact that Section 44 has been restricted and you must be suspected of being a terrorist under Section 43. They can't just stop you.
  17. Nov 30, 2010 #16
    I haven't heard of any ban on cameras in TS. Is it really in place?
  18. Nov 30, 2010 #17


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    He's being facetious. There is no ban on cameras, neither today, nor at the time when the country was under terrorist attack on a regular basis.
  19. Nov 30, 2010 #18
    The european court said that S44 is unreasonable - the police haven't stopped using it.

    The only difference is that under S44 they can stop and search you without reason - under section 43 they merely have to have a suspicion you are committing acts useful to terrorism.
    It doesn't say that their suspicion has to stand up in court.

    Section 44 also defines special sensitive areas where you can be stopped and searched without suspicion, however these areas are themselves secret. Although the police have admitted that whole of the city London is one, as are all airports, stations and public transport. http://www.bjp-online.com/british-journal-of-photography/special/1647621/special-report-foi-requests-extent-section-44 [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  20. Nov 30, 2010 #19
    Section 44 was first suspended and has now been re-instated with restrictions. The restrictions being that you can only search someone under the provisions of Section 43 (you are suspected of being a terrorist).
    http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/news/photographers_wary_after_terror_law_change_news_299959.html [Broken]

    Section 44 is no longer what it was when initially installed for police use.

    Please not your article is referring to when the laws first came out - published in Deceber 2009. This isn't an accurate reflection of the current Section 44. You can no longer be searched without suspicion.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  21. Nov 30, 2010 #20


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    The US is a different country to the UK with (in some cases) very different laws. I don't see what these last few posts have to do with the OP.
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