You may remember the Maryland case where a motorcyclist’s helmet-cam recorded an undercover policeman emerging from his car with his gun drawn. The greatly embarrassed constabulary decided to go on the offense, charging the speeder with violating the state’s wiretapping laws. It was a repeat of an incident where a police officer arrested a bystander for taping an arrest. Peter Hermann of the Baltimore Sun reports that “The Maryland Attorney General’s Office has issued an opinion that for the most part says recording police officers is perfectly legal.”

An arrest at the Preakness in front of hundreds of people is in a public venue. A trickier issue is whether a traffic stop in which an officer talks with the driver is a private conversation or a public act. The Maryland ACLU argues that the officer is engaged in a public act because virtually everything an officer does is a matter of public record.

That sounds great, but that motorcyclist is still on the hot seat.

The AG does say there could be circumstances in which taping would not be OK, but that would be the exception, not the rule. The ACLU is taking up the case of the motorcycle driver, whose criminal case is pending.

I’d still be careful about ticking off a cop. The full document is at Scribd.

2 Responses to Latest on Videotaping Police

  1. Being careful of ticking off an officer??? Isn't that a bit tyranical and violates the citizens right to fairness? The burden of proof being left ONLY to the officers camera is a bit too one sided, esp in a time where 'authority' is abused all too often. I would think that we have a right to record such events, just in case we need proof of whatever may happen. I can see a legal issue if it is released in a public manner like youtube instead of just being presented to an attorney or court room if there was such a need. We should not have to live in fear of 'authority'.

    • Just being practical. Unless you're a bona fide saint, police officers can make your life very difficult.

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