Just saw this on GB and thought I would spread it around. Maybe Dave has something on it. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- If you can film a crime in progress I don't know why you can't film the police if you think a law might be violated Appeals Court: Arresting Guy For Filming Cops Was A Clear Violation Of > Both 1st & 4th Amendments > from the huge-victory-for-free-speech dept > We've had a lot of stories this year about police arresting people for > filming them. It's become quite a trend. Even worse, a couple weeks ago, we > wrote about a police officer in Massachusetts, Michael Sedergren, who is > trying to get criminal wiretapping charges brought against a woman who filmed > some police officers beating a guy. This officer claims that the woman > violated Massachusetts anti-wiretapping law, a common claim from police in such > situations. > Segederin may have been better off if he'd waited a couple weeks for an > appeals court ruling that came out Friday, because that ruling found that > arresting someone for filming the police is a clear violation of both the > First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. How the case got > to this point is a bit complex, but basically, a guy named Simon Glik saw > some police arresting someone in Boston, and thought they were using > excessive force. He took out his camera phone and began recording. The police saw > that and told him to stop taking pictures. He told them he was recording > them, and that he'd seen them punch the guy they were arresting. One officer > asked him if the phone recorded audio as well and Glik told him it did. At > that point, they arrested him, saying that recording audio was a violation > of Massachusetts wiretap laws. > Even more ridiculous, they then had him charged not just with that, but > also with disturbing the peace and "aiding in the escape of a prisoner." > After realizing that last one didn't even pass the guffaw test, Massachusetts > officials dropped that charge. A Boston court then dumped the other charges > and Glik was free. However, he wanted to take things further, as he thought > his treatment was against the law. He first filed a complaint with Boston > Police Internal Affairs who promptly set about totally ignoring it. After > they refused to investigate, Glik sued the officers who arrested him and the > City of Boston in federal court for violating both his First and Fourth > Amendment rights. The police officers filed for qualified immunity, which is > designed to protect them from frivolous charges from people they arrest. > The district court rejected the officers' rights to qualified immunity, > saying that their actions violated the First & Fourth Amendments. Before the > rest of the case could go on, the officers appealed, and that brings us to > Friday's ruling, which, once again, unequivocally states that recording > police in public is protected under the First Amendment, and that the use of > Massachusetts wiretapping laws to arrest Glik was a violation of his Fourth > Amendment rights as well. The ruling (pdf) is a fantastic and quick read > and makes the point pretty clearly. Best of all, it not only says that it was > a clear violation, but that the officers were basically full of it in > suggesting that this was even in question. The court more or less slams the > officers for pretending they had a valid excuse to harass a guy who filmed > them arresting someone. > The 4th Amendment bit may not be as widely applicable, since it mainly > focuses on the Massachusetts wiretapping law. Here, the court notes that the > law only covers audio recording in secret. But there is no indication that > Glik did any of his filming in secret. It found the officers' arguments that > he could have been doing lots of things on his mobile phone completely > uncompelling, stating that the "argument suffers from factual as well as legal > flaws." > The full ruling is embedded below, but a few choice quotes: > Gathering information about government officials in a form that can > readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in > protecting and promoting "the free discussion of governmental affairs." > Mills v. Alabama, 384 U.S. 214, 218 (1966). Moreover, as the Court has noted, > "[f]reedom of expression has particular significance with respect to > government because 't is here that the state has a special incentive to > repress opposition and often wields a more effective power of suppression.'" > First Nat'l Bank, 435 U.S. at 777 n.11 (alteration in original) (quoting Thomas > Emerson, Toward a General Theory of the First Amendment 9 (1966)). This is > particularly true of law enforcement officials, who are granted > substantial discretion that may be misused to deprive individuals of their > liberties.... > [....] > In our society, police officers are expected to endure significant burdens > caused by citizens' exercise of their First Amendment rights. See City of > Houston v. Hill, 482 U.S. 451, 461 (1987) ("[T]he First Amendment protects > a significant amount of verbal criticism and challenge directed at police > officers."). Indeed, "[t]he freedom of individuals verbally to oppose or > challenge police action without thereby risking arrest is one of the principal > characteristics by which we distinguish a free nation from a police > state." Id. at 462-63. The same restraint demanded of law enforcement officers in > the face of "provocative and challenging" speech, id. at 461 (quoting > Terminiello v. Chicago, 337 U.S. 1, 4 (1949)), must be expected when they are > merely the subject of videotaping that memorializes, without impairing, > their work in public spaces. > [....] > The presence of probable cause was not even arguable here. The allegations > of the complaint establish that Glik was openly recording the police > officers and that they were aware of his surveillance. For the reasons we have > discussed, we see no basis in the law for a reasonable officer to conclude > that such a conspicuous act of recording was "secret" merely because the > officer did not have actual knowledge of whether audio was being recorded. > While this case isn't over yet, it's still a huge victory for those > arrested by police for filming them in action. It suggests such people can bring > charges against the police for civil rights violations in taking away > their First Amendment rights. A tremendous ruling all around.