Editor’s Note: The video above delves into the question, ‘Is it legal to record officers when you get pulled over?‘ while the video below breaks down the answer.
(WJW) – If you get pulled over for a traffic violation, do you have the right to record the police officer on your cell phone?
The United States Supreme Court has never ruled upon a citizen’s right to videotape the police. In many ways, it doesn’t really matter.
We all remember the spring of 2020. Cell phone video documenting the murder of George Floyd went viral, igniting mass protests, triggering intense political reaction and confirming that the smart phone combined with access to social media has changed everything.
When it comes to the evolution of First Amendment rights, ordinary citizens are the ones who typically take the lead. They assert their rights in new and innovative ways. It tends to take the courts a while to catch up.
Almost every day, another random bystander raises their phone and hits record, exposing excessive force or capturing police heroics.
Multiple federal appellate courts have unanimously confirmed that all Americans have a First Amendment right to record police officers in public places.
You cannot be prosecuted for refusing to turn off your camera, but that’s the short answer. Every Constitutional right has its limits and traffic stops are fraught with danger for everyone involved.
Reaching for a phone could be misinterpreted as reaching for a gun and pointing a phone could rapidly escalate an already tense situation.
You can still be prosecuted if you interfere with police business or disobey a lawful order.
Also, a rogue officer might just grab the phone and delete your video
The most effective strategy during a traffic stop is to secretly record the police.
Even in states which normally require two parties to consent to a recording, Federal Courts have ruled that police officers have no expectation of privacy during a traffic stop.
You don’t need their consent to record.
There’s an iPhone shortcut for this too. By saying, “Hey Siri, I’m getting pulled over,” it automatically dims your screen, opens the front-facing camera and starts recording.
It’s hands-free and perfectly legal, allowing you to exercise your rights without escalating the situation.