Capturing police action on a cell phone or other video recording device is one of the few actions the average civilian can take to stand against police violence and brutality.
But can it get you into hot water? What should you do if an officer orders you to stop recording, or even harasses you, detains you, or arrests you for recording? What are your rights here in Texas?
Know Where You’re Standing
The first thing you need to know is where you are. You have the right to record if:
- You are lawfully present in a public space.
- If you are lawfully present in a private space and are following the property owner’s rules about recording.
- You are not interfering with law enforcement operations in any way. Police may ask you to step away from the scene if they feel you’re too close, and in general, you must comply. Try to stay at a safe distance.
- You are not breaking any other law, such as trespassing laws.
- Texas is a one-party state, so you may generally record audio if the incident is happening in public where there is no expectation of privacy.
Don’t try to hide that you’re recording. An attempt to hide the recording may be used against you. Law enforcement may try to claim you are violating the privacy rights of the accused, or other witnesses or bystanders, if you do.
Know Your Rights
Police must have a warrant to do so. If they demand your video, ask for the warrant. Say you do not consent to handing over your phone without a warrant, and you have a First Amendment right to record.
If the police take your phone anyway, contact a lawyer.
Know What to Do If Police Detain or Arrest You
Police may start harassing you over your recording. Always remain calm and polite. Ask if you’re free to go. If they say yes, you can go. If they say no, you’re being detained. THe officer must have a reasonable suspicion you’ve committed a crime or are about to, so ask what crime you’re suspected of committing. If all the officer talks about is the recording, you can again remind them of your First Amendment rights and the fact that you’ve committed no crime.
If you’re arrested, invoke your right to remain silent immediately and invoke your right to an attorney. While the arrest is likely wrongful, it can still create problems for you. Do not resist the arrest, as doing so constitutes its own crime.
We can help you defend your rights. If you’ve gotten arrested for recording the police, don’t hesitate to call our office to schedule a case review right away.
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