When interacting with law enforcement, it is important that you remain calm and quiet. This increases the odds that a traffic stop or other encounter with police goes without incident.
Evidence, like video or audio recordings, to confirm your compliance may go a long way to defending yourself against criminal charges. It is important to understand when and where you may legally record law enforcement.
Is it illegal to record police?
A Florida statute declares that intercepting wire, oral or electronic communication classifies as a third-degree felony unless all people involved grant consent. However, according to ACLU Florida, case law also stipulates that individuals have a right to record matters of public interest. Recording police conduct falls within that right provided you do so in a reasonable manner, time and place.
What is a reasonable manner, time and place?
Any public area with witnesses is generally a safe place to record police, provided you do not interfere with their conduct. However, the legality becomes grey when you are on private property or are not around other individuals. In the case of a traffic stop, there are some precautionary steps to make it clear that you intend to record the officer:
- Announce the recording promptly
- Comply with requests to identify yourself
- Keep the camera out of the way
Generally, law enforcement may not confiscate or view your video without your consent or a warrant. If they order you to stop filming and you remind them of your right to film, they may arrest you anyway.
When the situation seems dire or unclear, it is better to remember your rights, remain silent and lean on the evidence you legally gathered.