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Is it Legal to Record Law Enforcement During Interactions?

It is no secret that law enforcement officers across the nation have been and continue to adopt new technological advances as more and more police departments are recording interactions with the public with dash cams and body cameras. But what are citizens’ rights when it comes to recording encounters with police officers and other authorities? Is it even legal to record law enforcement during an interaction?

While it is not necessarily illegal to record an interaction with the cops, there are some things that you should be aware of before pulling out a recording device, according to an article published by WNYC Studios.

  • Your First Amendment Right to Record: It is important to understand that, as an initial matter, you have a constitutional right to record, video tape, or photograph a law enforcement officer who is performing their duties in public. While this right is in the First Amendment, the manner in which the states implement this right may vary. 
  • An Officer Cannot Delete What You Recorded: Keep in mind that law enforcement officers do not have the right to delete footage or take your cell phone. In fact, this is considered obstruction of justice because of the destruction of evidence. While an officer may do this, or attempt to, they could get into significant legal trouble for it.
  • Do Not Break Other Laws While Recording: Keep in mind that while you are taking pictures or recording, you cannot break other laws (such as trespassing on private property to better record). Similarly, you are not allowed to interfere with police activity while filming. Understand the laws and make sure you are obeying them while recording an incident.
  • Know Wiretapping Laws: It is crucial to know that states apply federal wiretapping laws differently. Federal laws are less concerned by video footage than audio, resulting in possible wiretapping law violations because they are applied differently state-to-state. Generally, northeastern states permit recording law enforcement as long as it is done openly and the officer is aware. In other parts of the country, what is allowed depends upon the state’s consent statutes on the issue.
  • Know Your Rights: If you are stopped by law enforcement, be sure to ask, “am I free to go?” If you are, walk away. If you are not and are being detained, know that you have rights. While an officer’s word is the law during detainment, you should not put yourself in danger. Instead, fight against any alleged civil rights violation in a court of law to keep yourself and others safe. 

Other Civil Liberty Issues

Keep in mind that simply because you record law enforcement and catch them doing something improper, this does not automatically mean that they will be tried and convicted for civil rights violations. Moreover, there are two critical civil rights issues you should be concerned with: (1) recording an incident can also be used against the person in the court of public opinion even if the evidence is inadmissible in court; and (2) the office can lawfully seize and use the recording as evidence of a crime under the “plain sight” rule even if they did not have probable cause.

Nevada Accident Attorneys

If you have questions about the law in Nevada, contact the skilled personal injury attorneys at H&P Law.

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