Everyone these days seemingly has a smartphone with an integrated camera. Whether you are riding the subway, walking on the street or sitting in your house, you may want to use your phone’s camera to record police activity. Generally, you have a First Amendment right to do so, provided you do not obstruct police activity.
A recording of police activities may be essential to someone’s criminal defense. It may also keep law enforcement officials from violating the law. Nonetheless, officers may not appreciate their actions ending up on a digital recording. Here are three ways to film police officers without risking your personal safety.
1. Never break the law
If you break the law, officers may arrest you. Therefore, you must not violate federal, state or local laws when filming police activity. For example, you should not trespass on private property. You also should not interfere with the investigation. If you are standing several feet from officers in a public place, you are probably fine, however.
2. Keep control of your camera
An officer may ask you to hand over your recording device for purposes of deleting your footage. In most cases, though, officers have no legal authority to access your smartphone or any other device without first obtaining a warrant. In fact, doing so may constitute obstruction of justice. Accordingly, try to keep complete control of your camera before, during and after the incident.
3. Leave if you feel at risk
Even though you have a general right to film police officers, your personal safety must be paramount. If you feel like you are at risk, walk away from the scene. Should officers attempt to detain you, ask them if you are free to leave. If you are not, you are likely in police custody, and officers must inform you of your legal rights.
Everyday citizens play an important role in documenting police activities. Nevertheless, you do not want to lose your life or sustain a serious injury when capturing footage. By understanding how to film officers safely, you may get the recording you want without endangering yourself.