Here is an interesting legal question.
Do you have an absolute right to video a police officer doing his or her job?
There seems to be no question that if you see a police officer doing something illegal like beating an unarmed defenseless citizen, you have the right to video what is happening.
But what about the situation where the officer is doing nothing wrong or illegal?
Do you have the right as a citizen to video the officer in the performance of his duties?
The 1st Amendment argument is that you do have that right because it is a form of protected free-speech.
The argument against being allowed to do this is that it would likely interfere with the officer’s job. In addition it could be considered to be a form of harassment of the police by a citizen.
Well where do you come down on this issue?
Do you think in a free society we have a right to film our police anytime under any circumstances?
Or do you feel that there should be some limits on this First Amendment right?
Well a federal judge had to decide this very issue.
The federal judge ruled that a citizen does NOT have a 1st amendment right to video a police officer who is just doing his normal job activities.
Check out the logic of his decision as written about in the Legal Intelligencer:
“Citizens do not have a First Amendment right to film police officers absent a challenge to their conduct, a federal judge has ruled in a case of first impression.
U.S. District Judge Mark Kearney of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued his ruling in two consolidated cases filed against the City of Philadelphia by citizens whose cellphones were confiscated after they either photographed police activity or were barred from filming police activity. Neither of the plaintiffs, Richard Fields nor Amanda Geraci, were filming the police conduct because they had a criticism or challenge to what they were seeing. For Fields, he thought the conduct was an interesting scene and would make for a good picture, Kearney said. And for Geraci, she was a legal observer trained to observe the police, Kearney said.
“The citizens urge us to find,photographing police without any challenge or criticism is expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment,” Kearney said.
“While we instinctively understand the citizens’ argument, particularly with rapidly developing instant image sharing technology, we find no basis to craft a new First Amendment right based solely on ‘observing and recording’ without expressive conduct and, consistent with the teachings of the Supreme Court and our court of appeals, decline to do so today.”
Kearney said he was not addressing whether the police’s conduct in either of the plaintiffs’ cases violated their Fourth Amendment rights, which Kearney said was up to a jury to determine. He was also not ruling on whether a First Amendment right to film police when the conduct was being challenged exists.”
Pittsburgh wrongful death, Medical malpractice, Slip and fall and criminal defense attorney Bernie Tully thinks the judge got it right on this issue.
What do you think?
Thanks for reading.
Bernie the attorney.