1st Circuit of U.S. Court of Appeals Upholds Videotaping of Police Conduct

Los Angeles, CA (PRWEB) September 03, 2011

Alex Galindo with the law offices of Curd, Galindo & Smith, LLP, a police misconduct/civil rights attorney is happy to announce that the 1st Circuit of the U. S. Court of Appeals has held that videotaping police in the course of their duties is “unambiguously” a free speech right protected under the First Amendment.

The original lawsuit, Glik v. Cunniffe et al., Civil Action No. 10-10150, was brought by a Massachusetts lawyer, Simon Glik, who sued the city of Boston and three local police officers. Mr. Glik, the court documents stated, was arrested for video taping the officers’ conduct with his cellphone. Mr. Glik, in his lawsuit alleged that his civil rights, protected by the First and Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, were violated.

The arrest was based on the Massachusetts Wiretap Act, disturbing the peace and aiding in the escape of a prisoner. The official record indicates that the criminal case was eventually dropped, but Glik filed a civil suit.

The official record shows that the city of Boston and the police officers moved to dismiss the case, arguing that they were subject to immunity because there was no clear First Amendment right to film police using a cellphone video camera. The court records also show that they also argued that they didn’t violate Glik’s Fourth Amendment right because they had reason to believe he had violated the state’s wiretap law.

Judge William Young of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts denied the motion to dismiss, the city of Boston and the officers appealed.

The appellate judges found that Glik did have a First Amendment right to film the government officials carrying out their duties in a public space. Private individuals, like members of the press, should be given wide berth to gather information on public officials, the judges wrote.

“Changes in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw,” they wrote. “The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone.”

This is an important decision as various states have similar laws that prohibit the video taping of police conduct. Everyday Police officers arrest individuals for recording on-duty police without consent, citing such actions as violations of state wiretapping and eavesdropping laws.

The issue of private individuals recording police activity came to the publics attention in 1992 when George Holliday videotaped, from his apartment, Rodney King being mercilessly beaten with batons by police officers.

Some states have pending legislation that would make any police officer who interferes with a person taking a photo or video image of an officer in the performance of his or her public duties liable for damages, presuming the person did not obstruct or hinder the officers performance.

In California it is a crime to intercept or eavesdrop upon any confidential communication, including a telephone call or wire communication, without the consent of all parties. Cal. Penal Code

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