Townsend, Gebhardt & Eppes

Can You Videotape Police Officers? Know Your Rights!

Currently there are no federal or state laws exist that say it is illegal to videotape police officers. However, most U.S. courts hearing cases brought by people who were arrested for filming law enforcement have sided with the defendants, not the police. While it is generally agreed that when you video the police, the First Amendment protects your right to do so, there are limits as to when and how you videotape law enforcement while performing their duties.

The ACLU has published a “Know Your Rights” Handbook providing advice for videotaping law enforcement:

  • Citizens have the right to film or take pictures of the police or federal buildings as long as they are lawfully occupying a public space.
  • Police officers cannot confiscate or delete videos or photographs without showing a warrant.
  • Police officers can order you to stop filming if your actions are interfering with their ability to do their job.
  • You cannot be detained unless police can prove they have a “reasonable suspicion” you are committing a crime.
  • If detained for filming police, remind the PO detaining you that filming or taking pictures is a right protected by the First Amendment.

Always comply with an officer’s request to identify yourself or if they ask you to move away from the scene. The more you comply with an officer’s demands while filming them, the easier it will to have your arrest overthrown in court with the help of a criminal defense attorney.

Videotaping on Private Property in Texas

In Texas, it is illegal to record video or audio of individuals while on private property unless you make one of the individuals aware they are being taped. This law can be found under Texas Penal Code Section 16.02 as part of the state’s wiretapping statutes. When consent is not given by at least one person being recorded, the person doing the recording could be arrested for trespassing. If you want to video the police in Texas, you can do so if police are on public property or if one person involved with a police interaction on private property gives you permission to record them.

Is Law Enforcement Allowed to See My Footage When I Video the Police?

Unless they have a warrant, police cannot confiscate, delete or view your footage. However, law enforcement may be legally allowed to search your cell phone or other video equipment after they have arrested you for committing a crime.

If you were detained or arrested (or have had your cell phone or video equipment confiscated) while videotaping the police, call Townsend, Gebhardt & Eppes, PLLC today to schedule a consultation appointment. You have rights when it comes to videotaping law enforcement. Our criminal defense attorneys can represent you in court and defend your First Amendment rights.

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