Friday, August 5, 2011

Get This Camera Phone Thing Figured the EFF Out!!

Saw this article (and the video above) in follow-up to a previous post. We have a recurring issue here that the courts (or the legislature) needs to figure out fast.

The frequency in which these events are occurring are getting a bit out of hand. People are being charged or threatened with charges (or their phones are being confiscated) at an alarming rate. And, no one seems to know what the correct and current state of the law is at the local, state or federal level.

As discussed in our previous post and in the article linked above, federal or state wire-tapping laws prevent the surreptitious recording of someone's voice without their permission. Clearly, in my humble opinion as an experienced criminal defense attorney, these laws were aimed at preventing people from recording private conversations without permission - a well-intentioned law now, as always happens, being abused. Again, as an attorney who practices both civil and criminal law, I am not sure how one could interpret these wire-tapping laws to mean that video or audio taken in public like the one above (or many like it) fall within what the legislature intended when it passed these laws - how could it?

And, what's worse, is that police - who work for US mind you, the citizens who pay taxes and hence their salaries, claim the authority to stop us from videoing or recording public displays of police activity under the auspices of these wire-tapping laws. This is just wrong (in my opinion, some may differ - do you?). If you watch the video above, near the end, you'll hear an officer say that very thing. And, if you read this blog post and accompanying comments, you'll see that no one who's reporting these events (ore reading the articles) really seems to know what is legal and what is not.

As the article linked above explains, the ACLU has now stepped in to file suit (or threaten as much) against the police for doing just this. A private citizen recorded this event at this year's Preakness Stakes near Baltimore, MD. This is, obviously, someone else's video of the same event. The police confiscated his camera and deleted ALL his videos including video of things he had done with his children that he can never recover. Not the world's biggest crime, but as a parent of two youngsters, I would be big time pissed if this happened to me. These are recordings of things his children did that he can never get back.

My understanding of the law is that it would be illegal to record someone when they have an "expectation of privacy". So, who can claim an expectation of privacy when doing anything (short of dropping some kids off at the pool in the bathroom) at the effing Preakness!! Especially the police who say that they have an expectation of privacy as they beat the $*!#@ out of some sloppy drunk girl who (allegedly) took a swing at one of them. Does this pass the smell test? Or, as we used to say in law school, can you make that argument in the mirror without laughing? If not, I think you know what that means....

Please fix this! While I am all for recording everything (in public, mind you), especially as a criminal defense attorney, if the legislature wants to outlaw this, then do it!!! Take everyone's camera phones away. Otherwise, we need to realize that applying these laws to these circumstances is poppycock (yes, I did just use that word).

Have a great weekend everyone - and please, if you see me doing something ridiculous, please do not record it. However, if that's me getting pummeled by the authorities, video away! I know some great lawyers to help both of us.

1 comment:

  1. I'm willing to overlook your use of the word 'poppycock' and comment on the points you raised as a whole.

    The now ubiquitous technology that allows us to record the police restricts their ability to violently subdue suspects, and therefore threatens the ability to do their jobs with no risk of such tactics facing public scrutiny.

    Leonard Pitts Jr. recently wrote a decent column on this topic: