In a case of videotaping a police officer that I wrote about last week, a judge has issued his ruling, a ruling in favor of police accountability and the rights of the people. A 24 year old National Guardsman was facing felony wiretapping charges for recording a Maryland state police officer during a traffic stop.
At issue was whether citizens had the right to record the police acting within an official capacity—with or without their knowledge. The state argued that this man had no right to record the encounter, while his defense and the ACLU stated there was no “expectation of privacy” on a crowded roadway.
The judge ruled in favor of the defendant, tossing his wiretapping charges while upholding his traffic citations. According to the Baltimore Sun, he recognized that public servants like the police shouldn’t expect to be “shielded from public scrutiny.” He also cited the Rodney King case in his findings and said that with the onslaught of technology, people in general can’t really expect to not be recorded at any given time.
Finally, he affirmed what the ACLU argued in saying, the incident “took place on a public highway in full view of the public. Under such circumstances, I cannot, by any stretch, conclude that the troopers had any reasonable expectation of privacy in their conversation with the defendant…”
Current wiretapping laws were written years ago, long before nearly everyone was walking around with recording devices in their pockets. As technology advances, so must the interpretation of the laws.
The State Attorney for Harford County could appeal the decision if he disagrees with the judge’s ruling. But, at the time of the Sun article, that decision hadn’t been made. He is quoted as saying he believes the ruling will make the police’s job more difficult—though I question how.
With great power comes great responsibility and a potential for abuse. Although the majority of police officers conduct themselves in ethical and responsible manners, we have seen what happens when this isn’t the case. Being able to record police interaction in public is a win on the side of citizen protection.
Without recordings, most cases boil down to he said/she said and other evidence. It’s very rare to have video footage at a criminal trial. However, this other evidence can be used to build a case successfully against a defendant or, on the other hand, can serve to prove their innocence.
When you are facing criminal charges, an attorney will help you analyze all of the evidence against you and that evidence that may work on your behalf. If you have questions about your case or are in need of representation, contact me today.