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Can You Film Police Officers?

In modern times, most people have video cameras right in their pockets, ready to capture any scene at any time. This has led many people to film encounters with police officers, whether it is their own encounter or they are bystanders. In fact, the video taken by teenager Darnella Frazier was key evidence in the case against former officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.

With so many police encounter videos being published online, it is easy to wonder whether filming the police is even allowed? The truth is that in most situations, it is completely lawful to video the police, even though they might not like it. It is important to handle the situation in the appropriate manner, however, and always call a Clearwater criminal defense attorney if you get arrested.

What to Do or Not Do When Filming

First off, you should never be rude or confrontational when officers stop you in your car or while you are walking. Shoving your phone in their faces and yelling that you are filming them is never a good beginning to a police interaction.

Instead, hold your phone at a reasonable distance and politely inform the officer that you are taking a video. The officer should know that this is legal, and in many situations, knowing they are on video can help to ensure that officers do not do anything unlawful during the stop.

Taking a Video is Usually Legal

Most police encounters happen in public, whether you are pulled over on the street, walking down the sidewalk or in a park, or another public location. Anyone can video things in public, as no one has the right to privacy in a public place. This includes law enforcement officers.

Videoing can only cause a problem if police officers believe you are obstructing justice while doing so. If an officer believes that your video is interfering with an investigation or their law enforcement duties, they can order you to stop.

However, many officers abuse this loophole and might claim you are obstructing justice if you refuse to stop videoing them when they ask - even if your video is doing no harm. Too often, if people refuse to stop taking a video, they can end up in handcuffs and facing charges for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, or obstruction of justice.

If this happens, you should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney. An attorney can assist you if:

  • You were unlawfully arrested due to filming the police
  • An officer took your phone to delete the video or damaged your phone to get rid of the evidence
  • You are facing any other charges stemming from the encounter

Speak with a Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

Filming the police can provide concrete evidence of what truly happened during an encounter, but many officers can still become angry and act wrongfully in response. The Clearwater criminal defense attorneys of the Law Offices of Tragos, Sartes & Tragos can help, so please contact us to discuss your situation right away.