Recently, there have been several high-profile news stories involving civilians filming the police during arrests. But, what are the laws regarding this? And more importantly, can police stop you from filming them?
Akins Vs. Knight
One case which has garnered quite a bit of media attention is the case of Akins vs. Knight. The case concerned a civil lawsuit filed against five Missouri police officers, claiming that the plaintiff’s civil rights were violated by denying him the right to film the police officers during his arrest. Atkins, the aggrieved party, later appealed to the US Appeals Court for the Eighth Circuit after the original judge declared in favor of the officers. The appellate court, however, decided not to hear the case – which many experts believe signaled that police could not be filmed.
This, however, is not certain. One thing that is certain, however, is that this ruling does not apply to all states. In Florida, for example, citizens may film the police, provided it is in public and the officers are aware they are being filmed.
So, Can You Film The Police?
While it is technically legal in the state of Florida to film police in places where they have no reasonable expectation of privacy, such as in public (if it does not physically interfere with their legal duties) this does not mean you will not run into problems. The police may harass or confiscate your recording device. The police may even try to arrest you for obstruction of justice, disorderly conduct, or violation of wiretapping laws. One thing, however, is certain. In the state of Florida, there is no law outlawing the filming of police officers.
What Should You Do?
Now that you understand that filming an officer is legally allowed under Florida law – provided you are not obstructing them, there are certain precautions you should always take to remain safe:
1. Keep a Safe Distance – Make sure not to be too close to officers performing their duties, or to run at them.
2. Don’t Shove Your Camera in Their Face – It is best practice to hold your device at the waist level and to aim upwards, as this is far less confrontational.
3. Make No Sudden Movements – Sudden movements may startle officers, who may mistake a phone for a gun.
4. Always Keep Your Devices Protected with a Passcode – Protecting your devices with a password or code will allow you to protect your videos from erasure by officers.
As well as these helpful pieces of advice, you should also make sure that when you communicate with officers to let them know they are being filmed, that you do so in a calm and courteous manner. Always try to avoid language such as, “it’s a free country,” or “I’m making sure you do your job right!”
If You Are Arrested or Threatened, Contact Piotrowski Law Today
If you find yourself arrested or threatened by the police while you are lawfully filming them, you need to obtain the services of a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.
If you are looking for an experienced legal defense lawyer who will fight for you, call Piotrowski Law today at 1 (305) 204-5000 for your free consultation.