The cops can record you. Whether it’s a dashboard camera or a red light camera, your objection doesn’t hold any ground with law enforcement. So, why is a Maryland man facing charges for recording an officer during a traffic stop?
Prosecutors argue the man was in violation of wiretapping laws when a camera mounted on his motorcycle helmet recorded his interaction with a state trooper. The defense counters that people should be able to record police acting within an official capacity while in public and that the conversation between trooper and suspect was not a wholly private conversation to begin with.
The case is the first of its kind in Maryland and is definitely one to watch. With recording devices in nearly everyone’s pockets these days, clarifying if wiretapping laws apply to cell phone videos is an important matter. Important not only to clarify the law but also to ensure citizens have the ability to keep officers accountable.
Think of Rodney King and all the other video recordings since that time that have uncovered police abuses. As the Baltimore Sun points out in this important quite from ancient Rome, “Who will watch the watchers?”
The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) has sent several attorneys to represent the man in this case, stating there’s no reason a citizen should be denied the right to record a conversation when there is no “expectation of privacy.” In other words, if you are in a public place where your tone is audible to others, the recording of your conversation is completely legal.
The Attorney General for Maryland issued an opinion in July telling police that it was within the right of the people to record officers and that those conversations could not be considered private. The Attorney General is considered the law enforcement and legal official for the state.
The suspect in this case uploaded his videotaped encounter to the Internet, which is how law enforcement became aware of his recording. He now faces up to 16 years in prison for this felony charge.
There’s little doubt in my mind that the case will go to trial and whatever the result is, it will be appealed. Definitely a case to watch in months to come, this one could have lasting effects.
The bottom line is that citizens should be allowed to record police interactions when officers are acting in the line of duty. As public servants, law enforcement must be held accountable for their actions and having video evidence of their actions should be seen as positive rather than something to fear.
After all, if they are acting with integrity and respecting the rights of the people, why would evidence supporting this be such a bad thing?
You may not have a tape of your arrest, but chances are I can help you regardless. If you’re up against criminal charges and need an advocate on your side in court, contact me today.