Is it Legal to Record Police Officers?

Can the police take your phone for recording them?

No… UNLESS you are interfering with them performing their duties. Keep in mind that the police generally do not appreciate being recorded, so they may take advantage of any legal excuse to seize your phone.

In the wake of the Michael Brown shooting, videos of police brutality and harassment caught on people’s phones have surfaced all over the country. The heated battle brewing about whether it is legal to record police officers on duty has led to dozens of circumstances where things have gotten out of hand on both sides.

The good news is, the U.S. Department of Justice has sided with civilians’ rights to record. However, there are certain restrictions you need to abide by if you want to avoid getting your phone taken away, or worse, getting thrown in jail. Do not:

  • Harass police officers
  • Interfere with their duties
  • Record in places you are not allowed

Although you do have to right to record police officers, what you do not have the right to do is interfere with them doing their jobs. So as long as are you are mindful, keeping your distance, and in a public area, there is legally nothing they can do about it – including taking your phone from you.

The circumstances of the situation and the officer have a lot to do with why a police officer may ask you to stop recording or try to confiscate your phone. As long as you comply with the officer and follow the guidelines above, as well as courteously and calmly tell them you know your legal right to record anything and anyone in public, legally, they will not have the right to confiscate your phone.

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