A Florida man is suing a local police department for emotional distress and legal costs after he spent 15 hours in jail following his arrest for videotaping police officers on the job. The man was using his cell phone to record an altercation happening on the street which several other people were attempting to record as well, believing that police were utilizing excessive force.
In addition to the arrest and being temporarily charged with resisting arrest without violence, police also took the man’s phone, saying that it contained evidence of a crime.
This case might be confusing for some readers who are not sure about the authority of police to ask bystanders to stop recording. This is a relatively new area of the law, since small video cameras have only been widely available in cellphones only in recent years and cases dealing with this issue have been slow to make their way through the court system.
Most people would guess and they would be right that record police activity is protected under the First Amendment. This is particularly true when the person is recording out of concern that their or someone else’s legal rights are being violated, since that is a matter of public concern.
If faced with this situation Florida residents should know that they do have a right to peacefully record police activity and that they should not be subject to criminal prosecution for doing so. At the same time, it is important to try to be polite and to avoid confrontations with officers while exercising one’s rights.
Source: Raw Story, “Florida man sues cop who arrested him for videotaping officers arresting another man,” Scott Kaufman, March 19, 2014.