Upholds Videotaping of Police
PR Newswire/Yahoo! News
The First Circuit of the US Court of Appeals has held that videotaping police in the course of their duties is "unambiguously" a free speech right protected under the First Amendment.
The original lawsuit, Glik v. Cunniffe et al., Civil Action No. 10-10150, was brought by a Massachusetts lawyer, Simon Glik, who sued the city of Boston and three local police officers. Mr. Glik, the court documents stated, was arrested for video taping the officers' conduct with his cellphone. Mr. Glik, in his lawsuit alleged that his civil rights, protected by the First and Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, were violated.
The arrest was based on the Massachusetts Wiretap Act, disturbing the peace and aiding in the escape of a prisoner. The official record indicates that the criminal case was eventually dropped, but Glik filed a civil suit.
The official record shows that the city of Boston and the police officers moved to dismiss the case, arguing that they were subject to immunity because there was no clear First Amendment right to film police using a cellphone video camera. The court records also show that they also argued that they didn't violate Glik's Fourth Amendment right because they had reason to believe he had violated the state's wiretap law.
Judge William Young of the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts denied the motion to dismiss, the city of Boston and the officers appealed.
The appellate judges found that Glik did have a First Amendment right to film the government officials carrying out their duties in a public space. Private individuals, like members of the press, should be given wide berth to gather information on public officials, the judges wrote.
"Changes in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw," they wrote. "The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone."
This is an important decision as various states have similar laws that prohibit the video taping of police conduct. Everyday Police officers arrest individuals for recording on-duty police without consent, citing such actions as violations of state wiretapping and eavesdropping laws.
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