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Do I Have the Right to Film Police?


It’s footage that has made national headlines and helped provide real-time evidence in cases involving law enforcement.

With an estimated 97% of all adult Americans having a cell phone, it’s no surprise that potential suspects and bystanders regularly film interactions with law enforcement. It is also American’s First Amendment right to film these types of incidents, whether by taking pictures or video.

If you plan to pull out your cell phone to record law enforcement, keep the following in mind.

Don’t Violate Any Laws

Yes, it’s your First Amendment right to film law enforcement. However, you can not violate any laws while doing this, such as trespassing on private property or obstructing official police business. Law enforcement can ask you to stop filming because they say you are obstructing. If this happens, step away from the scene and comply; otherwise, you could find yourself being taken into custody.

Be Obvious With Your Recording

Do not feel like you have to hide your phone when recording an incident. It will be harder for law enforcement officers to say they didn’t know a recording was going on by being blatantly obvious with your actions. However, going off the point above, any filming you do should be far away enough from the incident so you are not disrupting official business.

Additionally, if you are the sole person involved in an incident with law enforcement, you can tell the officer that you will be recording the conversation. You can have peace of mind by being upfront about your actions and in many cases, officers will also have a recording of the interaction through a body camera.

You Do Not Have to Delete Anything

An officer is not allowed to come up to you and ask you to delete any pictures or videos you may have taken as it would be considered destroying potential evidence. If an officer does this, there may be ways to get the materials back and you have the right to inform superior officers of the action.

I Feel My Rights Were Violated — Now What?

As experienced Constitutional rights attorneys, the team at HDR Law can let you know if your rights were violated during an incident involving law enforcement or elsewhere. Let us help you — contact us online or by phone. (404) 341-4434.