Police officers in California and all across the U.S. have a bad reputation thanks to dozens of infamously viral videos that circulate all over the Internet. If it wasn’t for smartphones, hundreds of thousands of police officers all across America would be able to get away with such forms of police misconduct as the use of excessive force, sexual assault, unwarranted searches, racial profiling, police brutality, and other improper or illegal actions of a police officer.
When watching those viral videos of police misconduct incidents on YouTube, many Californians think to themselves, “Wait, why does this police officer allow the cameraman to videotape him?” If you are one of those people, you might want to read this article.
What happens when you are filming a police officer?
We invited our Los Angeles police misconduct attorney from JML Law to outline the 9 rules of filming police officers in California to avoid interfering with police and getting into trouble with the law. Because, believe it or not, when you are filming a police officer, he or she cannot wait for an opportunity to knock you to the ground and throw you into jail.
So you should not give the police officer a probable cause to arrest you. In fact, the act of videotaping police while they perform their duties is protected by the First Amendment. Police officers know it better than anyone else. Many people are filming them, especially now that there have been so many outrageous incidents of police misconduct in recent years.
Some experts say that this realization alone – that citizens are videotaping police officers – prompts police officers to act professionally and be more responsible for their actions. Others, meanwhile, argue that it made the situation even worse, as many people who film police officers become too pushy and bold to get the officer to do something illegal just to get more views on YouTube.
9 rules of legally videotaping police officers in California
When filming the police in Los Angeles or elsewhere in California, there are quite a few rules to keep in mind to avoid crossing the line and being accused of “interfering with police.”
- Under California law, citizens are permitted to videotape police officers while they are performing their duties but only as long as filming cops do not interfere with their job and the act of filming is open and obvious to the cop
- While it may seem scary to record a police officer, do not attempt to hide your recording device. Being sneaky can get you in trouble with the law. Instead, let the officer know that he or she is being filmed
- Let the police officer know that you are asserting your First Amendment rights. Communicate with the police officer calmly, and assure the cop that you are not interfering
- If you are being asked to provide your ID, ask if you are being detained. Under California law, police officers are not allowed to ask citizens to see their IDs unless the cop has a reason to believe that the person is committing a crime
- If the police officer warns you to stop filming him or her or attempts to persuade you that the act of videotaping the police is against the law, inform him or her that it is legal to do so
- Do not point your smartphone or camera like a gun. Again, do not give the police officer a probable cause to arrest you
- Consider getting an app that would stream your recordings by pressing a button or two (or at least get an app that would automatically upload your recording to cloud storage in case the police officer wants to damage your recording device or delete the video from your phone)
- Make sure you have a password on your phone so that the police officer cannot access it and delete the recording
- Do not be surprised if you get arrested. Police officers hate it when people videotape them. So if you do get arrested for filming a cop, do not hesitate to contact a Los Angeles police misconduct attorney
Let our lawyers at JML Law help you. Call our offices at 818-610-8800 to get a free consultation today.