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Neil reports: "The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review a federal appeals court decision finding it unconstitutional to enforce an Illinois state law that makes it a felony to videotape police officers."

A detail of the West Facade of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. (photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
A detail of the West Facade of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. (photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Supreme Court Confirms Citizens Right to Film Police

By Martha Neil, ABA Journal

28 November 12


he U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review a federal appeals court decision finding it unconstitutional to enforce an Illinois state law that makes it a felony to videotape police officers working in public if a microphone is turned on.

The law had been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union, and a divided panel of the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed earlier this year that it "restricts far more speech than necessary to protect legitimate privacy interests" and, "as applied to the facts alleged here, it likely violates the First Amendment's free speech and free-press guarantees," as Judge Diane Sykes explained in the majority opinion (PDF).

On Monday, the nation's top court declined to hear the state's appeal, leaving the 7th Circuit ruling in force, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Meanwhile, a number of citizens throughout the country say they have been charged with a crime (often obstruction) while recording police on the job. A Massachusetts man is facing a wiretapping case after allegedly posting a video on YouTube that shows him instructing a female passenger how to use an electronic device to record a traffic stop by Shrewsbury police.

Irving Espinosa-Rodrigue, 26, is scheduled for a pretrial hearing in January, reports the Shrewsbury Daily Voice.

Among other accounts of such incidents recently posted on the Photography Is Not a Crime site, Daniel J. Saulmon tells PINAC that he spent several days in jail earlier this month after being arrested in Hawthorne, Calif., while filming police on a public street. He faced an obstruction case, but says the charges against him have been dropped.

A spokesman for the police department wasn't immediately available to respond to a Monday afternoon request for comment from the ABA Journal.

For those who want to know more about the legal issues involved in such cases, the American Bar Association Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division is hosting a Dec. 4 teleconference called Videotaping Police, Wiretapping Laws and the First Amendment. A press release gives the details. your social media marketing partner


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+57 # DaveM 2012-11-28 12:38
Hopefully this will set a binding precedent. It will not, however, stop police from arresting people for "obstruction of justice" or anything they can come up with. That sort of thing has been going on forever and perhaps possession of a camera will become grounds for a "say so" ("because I say so") arrest.
+22 # jpena16 2012-11-28 14:16
That's OK, it will then lead ti a civil rights lawsuit. I would suggest to sue the arresting officer directly. Let's see how long the arrests last when the first few cops end up in the poor house ?
+75 # df312 2012-11-28 12:39
Utah has a law making it illegal to film any agricultural activity too. That must also be challenged.
+24 # DoctorDemocracy 2012-11-28 17:16
Florida too. It's a maximum of a misdemeanor and up $500 fine for KILLING your neighbor's dog. But it is a FELONY to videotape food producers' animals or any treatment of these animals. Great example of how our politicians are much more influenced by corporate financial interests than by things like animal cruelty or human decency.
+64 # mike/ 2012-11-28 13:00
wow! a step AWAY from the police state; now if we can just get everyone out of our bedrooms...
+47 # Trueblue Democrat 2012-11-28 13:24
One man was arrested here in Austin for filming a police arrest on a busy public street -- the police allegation being that in so doing the filming agitated the suspect and caused him to make the arresting officers' task more difficult.

My take: two often recently when the Austin police shot and killed a young black man, their cameras somehow failed to be turned on -- as required by the police regulations. Not much point "forgetting" to turn them on if the public is allowed to record the event and make the matter public.
+22 # 2012-11-28 15:23
What gets me is there are corporate camera's,and other camera's,on us average citizens 24/7.We are constantly being watched by cameras......An d we're not allowed to take pictures? Something is wrong here. In Tampa,Fl,at least ten years ago,there was a little community down there (Hyde Park)that arrested people for taking photos there. I dont know what came of that,but that was ten years ago at least and it was a creepy feeling.I've moved away from that hellhole since,but no matter where you go camera's are on us. I say keep snapping away folks.We have a right to!!
+7 # MJnevetS 2012-11-28 15:36
"Alright Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up"
+15 # vgirl1 2012-11-28 16:42
Wow, the Court decided one for the people.

0 # Bildo 2012-11-29 15:08
Quoting vgirl1:
Wow, the Court decided one for the people.


They have to let the people win once in awhile to keep up the illusion that we have some form of justice in the US. By reading these posts here I've come to the conclusion that no one here understands anything about jurisdiction. When you go to court, what jurisdiction is the prosecutor claiming are you under? Did anyone on here ever question it? In the Corp US courts you have NO RIGHTS. Only benefits and privileges. The"judge" takes the role of Administrator, they put you as Trustee, unless you rebut their presumption, and then you are screwed. Look at the Bankruptcy of the United States of 1933 and you will find out that there are NO Judges in the US. They are Public Trustees administering the bankruptcy.
+8 # BlueReview 2012-11-28 16:50
Oh good, now I don't have to worry about the police arresting me for the video I shot of them arresting my neighbor.
+15 # MidwestTom 2012-11-28 17:33
A vote against the police state. what a rarity.
+13 # cordleycoit 2012-11-28 19:27
Strange the Supremes come out on the side of the people. Something new?
+3 # Merschrod 2012-11-29 04:59
"Everyone is honest if they are well watched" is an old Irish saying - now does that make for a total surveillance state or a citizen check on state officials?
+1 # barbaratodish 2012-11-29 16:25
This SCOTUS decision may be a hopeful sign! Now maybe those police that are so fear filled that they NEED to be POLICE OFFICERS instead of PEACE OFFICERS, will do something to transcend their fear! Maybe they will either get help for their fear based (and therefore NON_INTENTIONAL provactive and uncalled for violence) or find other careers. Perhaps some may want to work where they are able to avoid being defensive about being filmed on the job. Maybe some will go into S&M PORN! rotflmfao
+1 # Martintfre 2012-11-30 15:19

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