Know Your Rights When It Comes to Police Roadblocks and Video Recordings

The law in Florida is that when a police officer, after conducting a valid roadblock stop, develops reasonable suspicion that a driver has committed or is committing a criminal or traffic violation, the officer may lawfully order the driver to get out of his car. But where such suspicion does not exist, an officer cannot legally order a driver to get out of his vehicle. In the following YouTube video showing an incident that occurred at a Fourth of July DUI checkpoint, it appears that the driver was illegally ordered to get out of his car.

Another problem with what the officers did at this checkpoint was to detain the driver after determining that he was not under the influence of alcohol. In Florida, the police may not detain a person for a traffic violation for any longer than necessary to issue a citation. But in this case, no citation at all was issued because no traffic violation occurred. Once the police determined that the driver was not DUI, they should have immediately let him go. Instead, they detained him, had a dog sniff around the outside of his car, and searched the inside of his car.

Fortunately for the driver, he had a camera in his car that recorded the entire incident. But as you can see, once the police saw that camera, they stopped the recording. The driver was lucky he got the recording back. If he hadn’t, it would have been his word versus the officers on scene.

Can you record the police in Florida? Is it illegal to record conversations in public spaces? How about during traffic stops? Can you record cops in FL during a traffic stop?

Due to the prevalence of smart phones in our country, people are increasingly taking videos of police out on the streets. Sometimes the police don’t like it when that occurs. Nevertheless, it is perfectly legal for you to take photographs and videos of things that are plainly visible from public spaces, including the police. The following article published on the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania website contains some good information on this topic:

Know Your Rights When Taking Photos and Making Video and Audio Recordings
Taking photographs and videos of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is your constitutional right. That includes federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties. Unfortunately, law enforcement officers often order people to stop taking photographs or video in public places, and sometimes harass, detain or even arrest people who use their cameras or cell phone recording devices in public.

What are my rights when it comes to recording a police officer on duty?

Your Right to Take Videos and Photographs
When in outdoor public spaces where you are legally present, you have the right to capture any image that is in plain view (see note below about sound recording). That includes pictures and videos of federal buildings, transportation facilities (including airports), and police officers.

  • When you are on private property, the property owner sets the rules about the taking of photographs or videos. If you disobey property owners’ rules, they can order you off their property (and have you arrested for trespassing if you do not comply).
  • Police should not order you to stop taking pictures or video. Under no circumstances should they demand that you delete your photographs or video.
  • Police officers may order citizens to cease activities that are truly interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations. In general, a court will trust an officer’s judgment about what is “interfering” more than yours. So if an officer orders you to stand back, do so.
  • If the officer says he/she will arrest you if you continue to use your camera, in most circumstances it is better to put the camera away and call the ACLU for help, rather than risking arrest.
  • Police officers may not generally confiscate or demand to view your photographs or video or search the contents your cell phone without a warrant. In addition, it is possible that courts may approve the seizure of a camera in some circumstances if police have a reasonable, good-faith belief that it contains evidence of a crime by someone other than the police themselves

Can you record conversations in FL? Is it okay to voice record police during traffic stops?

Using a Video Recorder (Including Cell Phones) With Audio Capacity

You have a right to capture images in public places, but you don’t always have a right to record what people say. Pennsylvania’s Wiretap Law makes it illegal to record private conversations – which can include conversations in public places – without the consent of all parties to the conversation. Conversations with police in the course of their duties are not private conversations, but many other things you may record on a public street are.

  • You have the right to videotape and audiotape police officers performing official duties in public. It is not a violation of the Pennsylvania Wiretap Law to do so. That means you can record an officer during a traffic stop, during an interrogation, or while he or she is making an arrest.
  • You can record people protesting or giving speeches in public.
  • The Pennsylvania Wiretap Law does make it illegal to record any electronically transmitted conversation. Never record a telephone conversation without the permission of all parties to the conversation.

What can you do if you are being detained or arrested for taking photographs or videos?

If You Are Stopped or Detained for Taking Photographs or Videos

    • Always remain polite and never physically resist a police officer.
    • If stopped for photography, ask if you are free to go. If the officer says no, then you are being detained, something an officer cannot do without reasonable suspicion that you have or are about to commit a crime or are in the process of doing so. Until you ask to leave, your being stopped is considered voluntary under the law and is legal.
    • If you are detained, politely state that you believe you have the right to take pictures or video and that you do not consent to the officer looking through or deleting anything on your camera. But if the officer reaches for your camera or phone, do not resist. Simply repeat that you do not consent to any search or seizure. You don’t want to invite a charge for “resisting arrest.”

If you have any questions regarding recording police or road blocks, if you feel like your rights have been violated, give me a call at 561-832-4348! I am a Florida defense lawyer with experience spanning several decades. I can defend your rights, call for a free consultation today!

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