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FEDERAL COURT SAYS PEOPLE CAN VIDEOTAPE THE POLICE

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Article 17-04

¡No Se Deje!

There have been many news reports about people that have been arrested for videotaping or taking photos of on-duty police officers.  Most of the time the videotaping is done by an innocent bystander that feels the conduct of the police is unlawful or improper.  The case of Rodney King illustrates how videotapes of police action can affect the results of legal cases.  In that case, the police officers seen beating Mr. King on the videotape were ultimately sent to prison.

 

In a case in Vallejo, California, Lonnel Duchine used his cell phone to videotape the police arresting 4 people outside of his home because he thought the police were acting improperly.  He says that the policeman was using his gun while speaking with 4 juveniles.    One policeman asked him for his cell phone saying that it was “evidence”.  He was arrested for refusing to give it to them.  He gave the cell phone to his friend and never gave it to the officer.  The contents of the videotape were posted on YouTube.

 

Legal commentators agreed that arresting Mr. Duchine was improper and he was interviewed by internal affairs officers investigating the policeman for misconduct.  Legal experts on the news shows all agreed that Mr. Duchine should not have been arrested and that IT IS NOT ILLEGAL TO VIDEOTAPE POLICE OFFICERS IN CALIFORNIA.  It may be illegal if in the process of videotaping, one interferes with the officer’s proper duties.

 

A Federal Appeals Court ruled in other case that a man can file a lawsuit against 3 policemen for violating his civil rights.  Attorney Simon Glik videotaped police officers arresting a young man after he heard people telling the police officers to stop hurting him.  He refused the officer’s order to stop recording and was arrested for disturbing the peace and aiding in the escape of a prisoner.  The prosecutor and the Municipal Court dismissed the charges. The judge said “The fact that the officers were unhappy they were being recorded during an arrest …does not make exercise of a First Amendment (Constitutional) right a crime.”

 

The Federal Judge said that there is a constitutionally protected right to videotape police officers carrying out their duties in public.  He also said that federal court cases have also clearly decided that people have a constitutional right to videotape police officers on the job in public.  Mr. Glik filed a complaint with the police department but the matter was never investigated.  He then filed a civil rights lawsuit for violating his constitutional rights under the first and fourth amendments, as well as for malicious prosecution.  The accused officers asked the judge to dismiss the lawsuit claiming that, as police officers, they have immunity from prosecution for acts done on the job.  The judge denied their request.  The judge also said that Mr. Glik’s recording of the police actions took place in a public place and did not interfere with the arrest.  ¡NO SE DEJE! ®

 

JESS J. ARAUJO, ESQ.