Do I have the Right to Film the Police?
With almost everyone nowadays having a cell phone with a camera, it is likely that a person may come across an on-duty police officer interacting with people of our community. This interaction may include the officer speaking to a person face-to-face on the street, pulling a person’s car over, or maybe even arresting a person suspected of a crime. Is it okay to film the police while they are on duty?
If you come across police officers performing their official duties, do you have the right to pull out your cell phone and take a video of the incident? The short answer is: It depends. Specifically, it depends on what State you live in. To begin with, the United States Supreme Court has never ruled on the issue. Luckily, in Nevada, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, you have the First Amendment right to film police officers performing their official duties because the First Amendment protects a right to film matters of public interest. Fordyce v. City of Seattle, 55 F.3d 436 (9th Cir. 1995). The majority of federal Circuits agree with the Ninth Circuit.
Of course, for the law to protect you, you must film from a public space (or from your own property), and you must not interfere with the police officers’ duties or create a safety risk to the police officers. If you decide to film, always keep a reasonable and safe distance from the police officers.
Unfortunately, not all federal Circuit Courts agree on this issue. Just last year, the 10th Circuit—which encompasses the States of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Oklahoma, and Kansas—refused to decide that the First Amendment protects a person’s right to film the police in public. Frasier v. Evans, 992 F.3d 1003 (10th Cir. 2021). Furthermore, the United States Supreme Court refused to take up the Frasier case and once-and-for-all make the right to film the police apply to every single State of our Union. Frasier v. Evans, 142 S. Ct. 427 (2021). Hopefully, the highest Court in the land will do so soon.
If you would like to read more about the Frasier case or right to film the police, please read: Supreme Court Refuses To Protect First Amendment Right To Film Police Brutality (forbes.com)
If you are in need of a criminal lawyer or one with knowledge of constitutional law, please contact the Nobles & Yanez Law Firm for a free consultation.