1st Circuit: A Clearly Established First Amendment Right to Film Officers In A Public Space (This Is A Big Deal) Part I
Right to Record, a website devoted to the legal aspects of recording police officers, has the scoop. A panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the right of citizens to openly record police officers.
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.” Moreover, as the Court has noted, “[f]reedom of expression has particular significance with respect to government because ‘[i]t is here that the state has a special incentive to repress opposition and often wields a more effective power of suppression.’” This is particularly true of law enforcement officials, who are granted substantial discretion that may be misused to deprive individuals of their liberties. Ensuring the public’s right to gather information about their officials not only aids in the uncovering of abuses, but also may have a salutary effect on the functioning of government more generally.
Read the whole thing. http://www.righttorecord.org/?p=448
It provides a great discussion of the developing legal landscape, as well as some juicy details — like the fact that the attorney defending the statute for Massachusetts wrote her student note about how the Massachusetts wiretapping law is unconstitutional.
This decision is a big deal. The case comes from Massachusetts, one of two states (the other being Illinois) that continues to criminalize recording audio in public. It’s the latest in a string of victories against the Massachusetts wiretapping law that has become a useful tool for police who want to shield their actions from public scrutiny. A Massachusetts District Attorney recently refused to proceed with charges against a woman who recorded a vicious police beating, the D.A. declaring that police officers have no reasonable expectation of privacy while on duty and in public. Cop Block founders Pete Eyre and Adam Mueller were just acquitted on felony wiretapping charges for openly recording their encounter with police officers Massachusetts.