Is It Legal to Record Police Officers in Florida?
Videos of police officers being recorded have circled the internet recently via platforms such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram. Some videos show officers abusing their power, while others simply show interactions between civilians and officers. In each of these cases, it is common to see an officer confronting a law-abiding citizen to shut off and delete any videos they have of them.
However, what are you supposed to do if you see an officer misusing their authority and a situation gets heated and controversial? Are you not allowed to obtain evidence of an officer’s actions? As with most legal issues, the answer is complex. Although, generally, if you’re in public, you are legally permitted to take pictures and record law enforcement.
While in most cases, it is legal to record someone in the state of Florida, in other circumstances, it is illegal to pursue recording them unless you have consent from the person or persons in the video. This is because Florida is one of twelve states that exists as a two-party consent state, which essentially means that anyone involved in a recording must agree to it. Despite that, Florida Statute 810.145(5)(a) excludes on-duty law enforcement from the two-party consent requirement. This indicates that you are legally authorized to record working police officers.
If you were recording an officer and were charged or arrested for interfering with police officers or obstructing justice, you’re entitled to seek legal guidance from an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contact The Umansky Law Firm for a free review of your case today.
Does the First Amendment Allow You to Record Police?
Nearly every court that has handled cases where an individual was arrested for recording police has agreed that the First Amendment allows you to record law enforcement in public while they’re executing their duties. The First Amendment contains clauses that give the public the right to openly talk about the government, public access to information, and the right of freedom of the press.
Technology such as smartphones and apps have transformed how fast people receive news and how quickly it’s being distributed. Therefore, anyone with access to these devices, not just journalists and news reporters, can post to inform the public. If you are arrested for recording police, the arresting officers may have violated your First Amendment rights. You should speak to an attorney who will review the details of your arrest and develop a strong defense.
Special Exceptions to the Right to Record Police Officers
Although the First Amendment protects when recording police, there are some exceptions to that provision. You should refrain from recording officers in a secret way, interfering with an officer’s duty, or breaking the law. These limitations involve time, method, and location of the recording and become even more difficult to comprehend because exceptions vary based on your location. The following information will break down each of the limitations of recording police officers.
Video Voyeurism is Illegal
Under Florida Statute 810.145, video voyeurism is a crime that can be charged as a second- or third-degree felony. Video voyeurism penalties include:
- Fines up to $10,000
- 10 years in prison
- Potentially a civil suit for invasion of privacy
Video voyeurism considers recording someone in a private setting without their consent as unlawful. Examples of private settings include bedrooms, changing rooms, hotel rooms, and bathrooms. If you are going to record an officer, make sure it is in a public setting and does not impose their privacy.
Do Not Interfere with a Police Officer
Police will have to tolerate some level of scrutiny and surveillance from the public eye; however, they do not have to bear any act of recording that interferes with their duties. Officers on-call can order citizens to stop recording if it obstructs or interferes with their ability to perform their jobs. If you happen to be in the way of an officer while they are trying to detain someone or if your recording riles up a crowd in a violent manner, you might be impeding on an officer’s responsibility and therefore, committing a crime.
When Recording Conflicts with Another Crime
Given the right to record doesn’t authorize you to break other laws such as trespassing, stalking, harassment, or disorderly conduct. Your own recording could implicate yourself if you’ve violated the law in any way. If there is no proof that your arrest is stimulated by vengeance or meant to prohibit a legal recording, then the arrest is legitimate.
What to Know When You Record Police in Florida
If you do decide to record police whether it be during a traffic stop or as they are dealing with another type of situation, you should understand your rights along with police officers’ rights. To lower your chances of being arrested or charged with a crime, you should be mindful of the following when recording police:
- Be calm and respectful
- You have the right to record them on duty
- Recordings can be in the form of pictures, audio, and videos
- Do not interfere with police officers
- Police can’t make you move but will if it interferes with the safety of others
- Police can’t search your devices without a warrant
- Use caution in case of retaliation
Protect Your Rights with a Credible Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney
Before you choose to record and report the actions of police in your community, consider educating yourself on your rights, the rights of officers, and what’s deemed as unjust. Depending on the jurisdiction, laws and regulations may be different. To ensure that you’re protected, you may want to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.
If you have been arrested or charged with a crime after recording a police officer, contact the criminal defense lawyers at The Umansky Law Firm. With more than 100 years of combined experience representing individuals across Central Florida, our attorneys can help you build the most effective defense strategy to clear your name. To partner with one of our attorneys, schedule a free consultation by calling our office or fill out our contact form.