You are recording a police officer, but they object. What are your legal rights?
If you are ever pulled over by police, you may be scared. You may wonder what you did wrong. Are you going to jail?
Some people, on the other hand, get their phones out and start recording the interaction. In many cases, the police will tell them to put their phones away and even threaten to arrest them. Who is right? Is filming a police officer illegal or not?
What the Law Says
The First Amendment allows Georgia residents and other United States to record the police when they are performing their duties in public. On a state level, Georgia’s hands-free law will not prohibit you from recording a police encounter, but you cannot do so while the vehicle is in motion. You must be parked. Under state law, you do not need to even inform police officers that you are recording them. You can legally film them even without their knowledge.
In the City of Atlanta, the police department also has standard operating procedures (SOPs) that they must follow when it comes to allowing citizens their right to record:
- As long as the citizen is not interfering with the police officer’s ability to perform their duties, all police department employees are prohibited from interfering with a citizen’s right to record police activity via video, photos, or audio.
- Police employees are prohibited from intentionally deleting or destroying the original copy of any photo, audio, or video recording of police activity by the public.
What if a Police Officer Objects?
You have probably seen videos on YouTube and other social media sites of police officers getting angry and threatening citizens who take video of them after getting pulled over. They may even lie to citizens and tell them that recording police officers is against the law.
Police officers should not object to you recording an encounter if you are on public property and not interfering with the police officer’s duties.
At the same time, though, you should not risk arrest if a police officer orders you to stop recording. You should do what they say. You should also note your objection with their order—in a calm manner—and report the incident to your lawyer or the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
You should also follow safe protocol by remaining in your car unless the officer asks you to step out. Keep in mind that a police officer approaching your vehicle might not know you have a camera in your hand. Be cool and don’t make sudden movements or else it could be mistaken for a weapon.
Contact Our Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers Today
When pulled over by police, make sure you understand your legal rights. Know that you can videotape police performing their duties, as long as you are not interfering with their duties. In fact, your recording can be used as evidence to show whether you were legally arrested.
The Georgia criminal defense lawyers at Ghanayem & Rayasam can help you with your criminal defense. We will work with you to determine the best course of action. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. Call (404) 561-0202 or fill out the online form.