Is there a constitutional right to video record police officers when they publicly perform their duties?
This is a very important question. Fortunately, in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal (which includes Sarasota, Florida) the First Amendment has been found to include a right to record public officials as they perform their official duties in public. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal (for Texas) has found in two cases that “photographing a police officer performing his official duties is protected under the First Amendment.”
The recent case of Eric Garner, a New York gentleman, who was accosted by four New York City police officers on July 19, 2014, on the pretext that Garner was selling cigarettes unlawfully, resulted in Mr. Garner’s death from a heart attack. In that case Garner’s friend, Ramsey Orta began videoing the beat down at which point the cops “jumped straight on him” (Orta). Obviously cops don’t want citizens recording their attacks and use of unlawful force on American citizens.
This issue was just recently addressed in Austin, Texas, when a Texas man was arrested for recording cops taking a screaming woman passenger from a car and then knocking her to the ground.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Lane found that “the First Amendment encompasses a right to record public officials as they perform their official duties.” This ruling is consistent and based upon earlier federal court decisions in the 1st, 7th 9th, 10th, and 11th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals upholding a citizen’s right to record police officer while they perform their official duties lawfully or unlawfully.
If you or a loved one is arrested for resisting arrest, obstruction of justice, or some similar charge because you videoed a cop doing something wrong, Mr. Dirmann would be delighted to help you with your case.