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More people filming officer arrests on their cellphones

Police in Virginia busted through the home next door to a 17-year-old. According to NBC 12, the teenager pulled out his cellphone and stood on his own porch, videotaping as law enforcement handcuffed suspects in front of his house. An officer walked over to the teenager and threatened to take the phone if the young man did not put it away. The teen put the phone in his pocket, but it did not keep the officer from getting physical. The young man’s sister captured the ensuing violence on video, which included officers using mace on the teen and putting him in a chokehold.

More people are using mobile devices here in Minnesota and across the country when filming police, which is a right that could be threatened under certain circumstances.

The results of rolling tape

The act of taping law enforcement can and has exposed wrongdoing, dating back to the 1991 arrest and beating of Rodney King that sparked outrage across the nation. However, the results can also have a negative effect for those holding the camera, even resulting in video-takers getting arrested. For example, the teenager who filmed law enforcement outside his home was charged with two counts of felony assault following the altercation with the police officers. One of the charges was dropped, and the other was reduced to a misdemeanor.

Considerations for filming

News journalists film law enforcement in action on a daily basis without consequence due to the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. The difference between those who are permitted to film and those who are questioned, according to some experts, is that there are guidelines that should be followed. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit ruled recently that there are reasonable restrictions on someone’s right to film police. According to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, people who intend to video law enforcement and want to avoid getting charged with a crime should abide by the following:

  • Do not passively or actively impede law enforcement officers or traffic
  • Do not violate the privacy of those involved in the matter.
  • Do not engage law enforcement in any kind of distractions that would compromise the integrity of a crime scene.
  • Keep a reasonable distance from law enforcement.
  • Avoid filming situations that could jeopardize the safety of any of the parties involved.

The teenager who filmed law enforcement from his front porch appeared to have followed the rules, yet officers still tried to take away his phone. Several courts have upheld citizens’ rights to film law enforcement who are doing their jobs while in public places. Anyone with questions regarding filming officers should contact an attorney.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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