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Is Videotaping the Police a Felony? 622

Posted by kdawson
from the turnabout-is-fair-play dept.
AtomicSnarl writes "When Carlisle, PA, police noticed their traffic stop was being videotaped, they arrested the fellow with the camera for felony wiretapping. From the story: 'Kelly is charged under a state law that bars the intentional interception or recording of anyone's oral conversation without their consent... An exception to the wiretapping law allows police to film people during traffic stops.. [An assistant DA] said case law is in flux as to whether police can expect not to be recorded while performing their duties.'"
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Is Videotaping the Police a Felony?

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  • What a Power Trip! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @07:45PM (#19484493) Journal
    I'm guessing that if it's illegal to take a picture of police [slashdot.org] than it's also illegal to film them.

    So, I guess if you want to videotape the police, you'd better declare yourself an independent journalist and hope the judge values our freedom of the press?

    This is both shocking & amazing on so many levels. I can think of several ways to look at this that make it hilariously backwards. The cops are on duty, their income is supplied by individuals like this man. As far as I'm aware, employers are allowed to videotape their employers.

    I've met good policemen and I've met pigs. These instances sound like a pig on a power trip. Illegal wiretapping, yeah right! It has a sound function so he's wiretapping? Everything just sounds so ridiculous. If it happens in public, it's public domain. This is just obvious abuse of those they are supposed to protect.
    • by macboygrey (828059) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @07:50PM (#19484559) Homepage
      It is *NOT* illegal to film the police. The organization CopWatch is based on that freedom. In fact, it is legal to film your public officials at any time. (Well, maybe not in the bathroom). When a public citizen on public land is told to turn off her or his camera, it is called cohesion, and is illegal.

      Video of my friend being coerced here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=DMDW4Fszj2U [youtube.com]
      Also, a follow up here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=QWmLufB6Bsw [youtube.com]
      • by soren100 (63191) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @09:34PM (#19485431)
        We really need more people filming the police.

        It seems that police brutality is getting so common now that they are willing to beat members of the media on camera [youtube.com]. (The clip begins with the narrator suggesting that the protestors were "asking for it" by throwing rocks at the police, but they can't spin the footage of their own camerapeople getting beaten up.)

        What's worse, is that police now tend to focus on people with cameras , as you can also see in the above video. [mediachannel.org]

        The tapes are very helpful in prosecuting police misconduct [cnn.com] , so we neeed more people taping.

        Otherwise, the police tend to lie about the incidents [bbc.co.uk], even going so far to claim in the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes in Britain that 5 different cameras watching the action were all somehow not functioning [wikipedia.org].

        In a Missouri case, a teenager was being harassed by the police at a DUI checkpoint for not telling them where he was going -- when he asked why he was being detained, he was told "If you don't stop running your mouth, we're going to find a reason to lock you up tonight" [thenewspaper.com].

        Cameras are getting tinier and tinier all the time, and now we have Wi-Fi enabled storage cards. When cameras get so small the cops can't see them, and people can record the content wirelessly to hidden devices, it will be a lot harder for the bad cops to stop the filming of the brutality.
        • by BlueF (550601) on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:16AM (#19487131)
          >> We really need more people filming the police.

          Couldn't agree more. In a more perfect world, competent and conscientious (read, honest) peace officers should not fear being filmed.

          Sadly, I can relate to a police office's fear of being filmed. While I think it smacks of dishonesty or abuse of power at best (police officers objecting to being filmed/photographed)... Can anyone refute the contention that most law is so nebulous (open to a huge range of judicial interpretation and/or special interest manipulation) it's not impossible (or even unlikely) police officers could be sued (and be found guilty of misconduct) for entirely legitimate police conduct. If a burglar can effectively sue a home owner for bodily injury suffered why burglarizing said home, couldn't a police officer loose a civil suit for enforcing the law in a manner most of us would consider appropriate.

          All that aside, I still believe there should be a federal statute 100% sanctioning a civilian legal right to film police conduct (excepting situations where filming poses an obvious and immediate risk to officers or others).
          • by A nonymous Coward (7548) * on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @02:12AM (#19487425)
            It is my belief that police like nebulous laws, or maybe I should say, the powers that be like the police to enforce nebulous laws. It all comes down to how to intimidate people -- if you can charge them with something nebulous like disturbing the peace, it doesn't matter if it sticks or not. A variation on that old saying to kill them all and let God sort them out -- just arrest them all and let the station or DA sort it out.

            There will be a day, 10 or 20 years from now, when there will be no privacy left. Cameras will be so cheap and plentiful and ubiquitous that, just as in Diamond Age, even the insides of homes and offices will be on the internet. I consider this the same mixed blessing as the invention of guns, specifically cartridge guns. They level the playing field. It makes it incredibly harder for the rich to control the poor, for the aristocracy to control the peasants. As much as I dislike the idea of someone watching me take a dump, the reality is that very few people would want to. Faced with zillions of cameras to choose from, the vast majority will watch the rich and powerful rather then me. Paris Hilton will certainly have a ton of watchers, but there will also be watchers for Donald Trump and George Bush and the local mayor and police chief and power brokers.

            Police are already backing down from personally deciding to be judge, jury and executioner on the spur of the moment. It's going to get better. I don't like losing my privacy, but I think the tradeoff is worth it.
      • by polymath69 (94161) <(dr.slashdot) (at) (mailnull.com)> on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @02:10AM (#19487421) Homepage

        When a public citizen on public land is told to turn off her or his camera, it is called cohesion, and is illegal.

        Cohesion? <Inigo>I do not think that word means what you think it means.</Inigo>

        Cohesion is how much stuff tends to stick to other stuff of the same type. Unless there's a meaning of which I am unaware, it's not remotely illegal.

    • by eriklou (1027240) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:14PM (#19484779)
      I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them. -- Thomas Jefferson
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FraterNLST (922749)
      We have to remember that this is only happening for one reason - we let it happen. We should be well passed surprise by now when people in power abuse that power - a proportion of people in power ALWAYS abuse their power, and have been doing so since first someone said "now take a look at this pointy stick I have." Take a look around at the current political and legislative landscape of the world we all live in and be afraid. The patriot act was just the tip of the iceburg, one step in a growing trend.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mblase (200735)
      The cops are on duty, their income is supplied by individuals like this man.

      No, this is a common misconception. Their income is supplied by the police department, which is budgeted for by the local government, which is funded by taxpayers like this man.

      It's equally true that the police enforce the laws which protect my property, my life, and my job, but I wouldn't dare to argue that this implies that my income is supplied by police officers.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:53PM (#19485135)
      > I've met good policemen and I've met pigs.

      I'll second that ... but organizationally, whenever it comes to the issue of public accountability, I've never seen a police department that didn't fight tooth and nail to cover itself at the expense of the public. The police as an organization will without fail come down on the side of the pigs. The honest cop is merely the exception. Government is a weird institution, and the police are no exception: individually respectable, societally necessary, but organizationally corrupt. I guess all rot starts in the middle.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by srussell (39342)

        Government is a weird institution, and the police are no exception: individually respectable, societally necessary, but organizationally corrupt. I guess all rot starts in the middle.

        You're absolutely right. I'd like to offer another perspective. Mind you, I really hate authority figures, and I hate the institution of traffic cops as a waste of resources (and I therefore disagree that police are a societal necessity)... however, we have to consider the psychology of law enforcement. This is a group of

    • by idesofmarch (730937) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @09:04PM (#19485213)
      First off, the article you cited is better evidence that taking pictures is NOT illegal. Yes, the cops arrested a guy for snapping a photo, but they knew they could not make the charges stick, so they released him.

      Second, videotaping or photography has nothing to do with this case. The issue is audio recording.

      Third, you are the officer's employer in a very indirect sense at best. You have no actual power over him or her. You have handed that over to your government, and you can only effect a change through your government. Fourth, employers do not have an unqualified right to videotape their employees. Fifth, you bring up public domain? This is not a copyright case. I do know what you mean though, and while it is true that you have no expectation of privacy in public with regard to the way you are viewed (since you can be seen from far away), the same cannot be said about what you say. Sound only carries so far, and it is not unreasonable to expect privacy with regard to what you say.

      To be clear, I do not believe the officer had an expectation of privacy with regard to what he said, but the PA legislature has deemed the wiretapping law to be a good one, so they are the ones to blame.

    • by Christoph (17845) <chris@cgstock.com> on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @10:22PM (#19485825) Homepage Journal

      I asked the security department at the US Embassy in Manila for permission to take photos across the street on a public sidewalk -- on Philippine soil -- just so they would know who I was and could clear me in advance. The Philippine constitution also has freedom of speech and the press, and the embassy security officer told me there was no law he knew of (US or Philippine) against me taking photos. The embassy had no procedure to for me to get authorization or clearance from them.

      However, he made it very clear that if I did so, he would have the Philippine National Police to detain, hold, and interrogate me, after which they would detain, hold, and interrogate me. Again, this detention would be for conduct they don't consider unlawful, and I openly disclosed to them. I'm also a U.S. citizen, for what that's worth, and I'm a professional photographer. Like the incident in the article, this is presumably a civil rights violation.

      The problem is that even if you prevail, the experience chills freedom of the press. It makes exercising one's rights unnecessarily costly and burdensome. People will reasonably have to weigh exercising their rights against harassment, legal or not, by those who neither understand nor respect the rights of others to make recordings in public places.

      There have been protests outside the U.S. embassy in Manila, newsworthy events. It is lawful to photograph them, but military, police, private security guards, shop owners, or just the general public might harass or detain you based on ignorance of the legal right and logical entitlement to take photos in public places.

      When it was google street views, many people on slashdot labeled it invasion of privacy. Now that the police are saying they, too, don't want to be recorded in public, it's perhaps more relatable that anyone can record anything in public, as once you start making exceptions, freedom of the press is no longer a right. I always assumed this is why freedom of the press applies equally to all citizens, not just those the government decides are entitled to that right.

      • by amper (33785) * on Wednesday June 13, 2007 @01:48AM (#19487303) Journal
        I'm a native-born US Citizen of Philippine decent, and I stayed in the Manila Hotel and the hotel that's right across the street from the US Embassy (I've forgotten the name) during the ASEAN conference (and resulting demonstrations where demonstrators were hit with water cannon) in 1999. My brother and I made a big joke of making sure the security cameras at the embassy got a good look at us in the hotel windows since we didn't bother formally checking in at the embassy (I don't think that's really necessary in the Philippines, anyway, is it?). Unfortunately, we missed the actual demonstration with the water cannon because I think we were down in Calamba for the day visiting family, or you can be sure we'd have been in the thick of it trying to get pictures. This particular demonstration took place in front of the Manila Hotel, which you will know is just across the park from the US Embassy.

        You didn't mention what you were photographing, and in which direction. Let's face it, the Philippines isn't the most stable country in the world (my dad was a classmate of Joseph Estrada, also many members of my family were denied travel privileges under Marcos' regime because my grandfather was a known dissident), and there's quite a lot of terrorism that happens there, not to mention the frequent incidence of domestic unrest. Even back in 1999, we'd already stopped an Al-Qaeda plot that was based in the Philippines (The Bojinka Plot [wikipedia.org]).

        As a professional photographer who clearly has world travel experience, you should know better than to ask officials if taking pictures is OK, unless its absolutely necessary to get the shot. Sure, what the security personnel told you is a civil rights violation, but that's not going to do you much good. Presumably it wasn't an actual US Marine who told you this (the Marines probably know better than to answer such a question--they'd kick it up to a commander), so its entirely possible that the person who told you this simply didn't know what the hell they were talking about and was just jerking your chain. Notwithstanding that, as a professional photographer who clearly spent a lot of money to get to the other side of the globe to get some good pictures, maybe you want to avoid doing things that prevent you from getting the pictures in the first place.

        The freedom of the press is a natural right. It cannot be taken away, only infringed upon.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      What if the cop takes your camera?
      In my hometown, a cop got his car stuck in the mud. Someone took a picture of it, thinking it was funny.
      The cop radios his friend, who pulls over the picture taker, and takes the camera...
      From the below linked article: "The victim John Bell says Officer Devore threatened him. The lawsuit claims the officer said he'll "give Bell until the count of three to hand over the camera or he'll make his life "a living hell." "
      Full story from the local news, WKYC [wkyc.com]
  • by Derekloffin (741455) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @07:45PM (#19484497)
    Nothing better than a law which let's a public entity have legal protection from public oversight.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by pizpot (622748)
      Take your pick, 50 good countries or one big united mess.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:07PM (#19484711)
      Public oversight? What are you, some kind of freedom-loving hippie?

      We citizens of the Homeland are in constant danger. Terrorists brazenly roam the countryside, nuking preschools when we least expect it.

      How do you expect the police to do their job when they are constantly hogtied with red tape, unable to perform a little simple extrajudicial torture without spending huge amounts of time and money to ship the detainee overseas?

      The answer: they cannot.

      We should cheer when a terrorist-sympathizer photographer is arrested. That's one less evildoer threatening our benevolent overseers' iron hand, and one less distraction from our nation's righteous course.
  • by Exstatica (769958) * on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @07:46PM (#19484507) Homepage
    Its almost the same situation with guy who got permission from a land owner to sit on the property and video tape police. The judge considered it unlawful seizer, and he won the case. Mainly because video taping is a legitimate way of gathering evidence. The full case is at http://www.paed.uscourts.gov/documents/opinions/05 D0847P.pdf [uscourts.gov] That case was federal, I have no idea about state laws but in theory it could be appealed and possibly get the federal court involved.
  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @07:46PM (#19484509)
    What's wrong with filming the cops?

    Isn't that the only REAL way to watch the watchmen?
    • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @07:49PM (#19484549)

      What's wrong with filming the cops?
      I think either FOX owns the patent on videotaping the police or the RIAA owns a copyright on videos of 'the Police'.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Of course this argument works both ways.

      I do not believe it is illegal to videotape police from a lawful position, while the police are engaged in police activity (if you're in an unlawful position - e.g. committing a crime - your rights are always different to some degree). It remains to be seen whether the courts agree with me.

      However, if your argument is going to be "if they've got nothing to hide, they shouldn't mind", then you cannot complain when the police themselves turn that argument around
      • by AlterTick (665659) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:25PM (#19484901)

        if your argument is going to be "if they've got nothing to hide, they shouldn't mind", then you cannot complain when the police themselves turn that argument around on you.
        Wrong. We are not public employees. We are not granted special powers above those of ordinary citizens like they are. They have a gun, a baton, and the power of the state behind them. This alone is justification for watching them. As private citizens, the state has no right to arbitrarily watch us. The state (through its agents) must justify its surveillance.
  • by gbulmash (688770) * <semi_famous&yahoo,com> on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @07:46PM (#19484513) Homepage Journal
    It's an old saw of photography that in a place where a celebrity does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, you can take their photo without permission. You can even publish it. When I was handling photos for a major movie site, I had to remind agents and managers of this when they'd try to bluster about how neither they nor their client authorized us to run a photo they didn't like from a premiere or party. We didn't need their authorization.

    Now take something that is within the public interest, recording a police officer in the performance of his/her duties in a public place. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? If there isn't an exception to the wiretapping laws when a citizen records the police, but there is an exception when the police record citizens, there is something seriously wrong with that law. This case bears watching.

    - Greg

    P.S.: And to have some stereotypical /. post elements:

    In Soviet Russia, the police record *you*.

    1: Record Police Officer
    2: Get Arrested For Felony
    3: ???
    4: Profit!!

    I, for one, welcome our new wiretapping overlords.

  • Why not? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Red Leader. (12916) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @07:47PM (#19484521) Homepage
    I guess my question is "Why SHOULDN'T you be able to videotape police officers doing their job?". Seriously.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Posted by ScuttleMonkey on Mon Feb 19, '07 04:13 PM
    from the turnabout-isn't-fair-play dept.

    a_nonamiss writes "A Georgia couple, apparently tired of people speeding past their house, installed a camera and radar gun on their property. After it was installed, they caught a police office going 17MPH over the posted limit. They brought this to the attention of the local police department, and are now being forced to appear in front of a judge to answer to charges of stalking."
  • by H0NGK0NGPH00EY (210370) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @07:49PM (#19484555) Homepage
    I saw this on BoingBoing yesterday, and one part didn't make any sense to me. According to the article:

    Kelly is charged under a state law that bars the intentional interception or recording of anyone's oral conversation without their consent.
    Seems like an overly broad law, but whatever. However, it should be applied equally to everyone, don't you think? Did the officer have the consent of the vehicle driver for the dashboard camera in the police cruiser?

    Note it doesn't say "without notification," it says "without consent." Important difference.
  • Video maybe not (Score:2, Informative)

    by Sycraft-fu (314770)
    But in PA audio recording probably is. PA is a two party state. What that means is that all parties involved in a conversation must be aware it is being recorded for that to be legal. There are a number of states like this, and that's why there's the "this call may be monitored or recorded" crap on 800 numbers and such. They don't really care if you know, except that they are required to say so in some states.

    Other states, like AZ, are one party states. This means that only a single person in a conversation
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by seifried (12921)
      Interesting, Canada as a whole (as I understand it) is a one party consent state. However if a police office and a person are in the middle of something, and I am simply a bystander can I be considered to be part of the conversation so to speak? Is asking "Hey officer, what's going on?" and having him reply sufficient? Or can I simply mute the audio on my video camera and capture picture only, thus avoiding the whole wiretapping issue? Would there be a difference between a "normal" microphone and some amped
  • Pigs. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by morari (1080535) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @07:52PM (#19484577) Journal
    If they were here to "serve and protect" they wouldn't be harassing citizens in petty traffic stops to begin with.
  • This is more likely to get the law thrown out then get this guy put in prison. It is unreasonably broad for this officer to be applying this law in this way.

  • by Jarjarthejedi (996957) <christianpinch AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @07:53PM (#19484587) Journal
    And what's with this wiretapping nonsense? That doesn't even make sense, how do you wiretap the air? Last I checked it wasn't a series of wires...

    "Kelly is charged under a state law that bars the intentional interception or recording of anyone's oral conversation without their consent."

    Okay...what? Why is this illegal? I mean, I can see some potential for abuse, recording someone saying something and using it to incriminate them etc. But seriously, if you say it aloud to someone they can report that you say it in court (presumably without hearsay as, as far as I know, that only applies to stating facts you heard from someone else, not what someone else said. As in I can say "Billy said..." in court but not "I know that because Billy said so")

    I mean, I'm sure this law is great for privacy freaks, but it just seems off. If you're going to say something to me why don't I have the right to record it? My brain's already doing that, what's wrong with having a more accurate representation of it? You'd prefer I improperly remember you saying "I'm gonna blow them up!" and not have the recording that actually says "He's gonna blow them up?" I wouldn't mind people recording my conversations, why would you ever say anything you wouldn't want recorded to another human being with a memory?

    Just seems like an off law to me. The case itself, not so much. If it's illegal there, no matter how off that law may be, then he should be arrested. However I'd hope he could get off with only a fine due to the extreme obscurity and horrible naming policy (really, they're supposed to know that videotaping someone talking is wiretapping?).
    • by MoneyT (548795) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:34PM (#19484979) Journal
      Allow me to introduce you to a concept called the law of unintended consequences. The people of the state of PA concerned very much for their privacy and protection from an overberring government, put into place a law which forbids people from taping or recording conversations between people without the consent of all involved. Now, Joe Police Officer can't tap your phone, and neither can Private Eye Paul. Nor can Officer Jim sit outside your home with a parabolic mic and record your conversations with your wife. Unfortunately, because the road to hell is paved with good intentions, this also means you can't record a police officer stopping another citizen or even yourself.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by QuantumRiff (120817)
      Could it be argued that the Police officer was illegally preventing the citizen from Gathering evidence in a matter of criminal law? He was pulling the guy over, and he could construe that that was the start of a legal matter, and he was documenting the evidence.
  • If this is taking place on a public street, then the wiretapping laws don't apply, just like the people's rights don't apply to "illegal search and seizure" when you're growing marijuana in your front yard in plain sight.

    Right?
  • by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @07:54PM (#19484595) Homepage Journal
    <Mr. Announcer Voice> Pigs on taaaaaaape... </Mr. Announcer Voice>
  • by Aminion (896851) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @07:54PM (#19484597)
    "Hey, if the police have nothing to hide, why do they object to being videotaped?"
  • by hguorbray (967940) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @07:54PM (#19484601)
    When those who enforce the law are above it we are on the road to becoming a fascist oligarchy -if we aren't already.

    Of course we have an executive branch which has put itself above the law in the name of terrorism and freedumb(sic)....

    and a legislature which does not have the will to fix our healthcare crisis because they have their own healthcare system which isolates them from the f'd up system the rest of us are dealing with.....

    There must be literally HUNDREDS of cases since Rodney King in which cops (especially LA cops) have been caught doing bad, abusive and unconstitutional things to perps -er citizens.

    There should be no right of public officials to privacy while they conduct the tasks that they are allegedly performing on our behalf.

    Cameras and things like open government sessions are about the accountability which is becoming rarer in this society.

    LET THE SUNSHINE IN (ie. 'sunshine' laws)

    I'm just sayin'
  • Pure bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @07:55PM (#19484603)
    I'm sorry, but this is pure bullshit, through-and-through. Police officers in America are authorized and equipped to use *lethal* force, and in most courts their word is taken as gospel over a civilian. Due to departmental 'solidarity' successfully prosecuting even the worst cases is incredibly difficult.

    If anything, police officers ought to be required by law to wear pickups that record ALL sound and a snapshot every 10 seconds while they are on duty. Ideally, said recordings would also be instantly transmitted to a secured location which nobody in their headquarters has access to for archival purposes.
    • Re:Pure bullshit (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:46PM (#19485069) Homepage
      I am a videographer. I have a business doing this and on several occasions stopped and videotaped a police event and made some money selling it to the news.

      There is a key to doing this. you either need to outnumber the cops, be "live" and look like a film crew as a cop will not DARE to even touch a reporter or camera guy that is on the air live, or do it clandestine.

      I have resorted to buying and using a cheap Canon HV20 camcorder with a canon shotgun on the top in a modified bag to shoot police footage of an arrest or other activities that the news likes to pay for. Why? because I have been assaulted by police on several occasions. It's better to be "invisible" while recording them (window glass camera mounts work great at long zoom) than to anger the police and have them accidentally break your camera or confiscate it and then it magically never get's put into evidence nor a report filed.

      yes I have had that happen. Now I do it invisible, they dont know I am recording and the news stations around here still accept my video (even more so now it's HD, no other freelance guys in town do it in HD)

      I have never met a cop that was courteous or honest when I had a camera on them. Every single one of them got hostile and either threatened me or assaulted me. And I was always out of their way (100 feet or more). others might have had better experiences, I hope one day I will, and i live in a smallish town and shoot in that town and the nearby medium town.
  • This is ludicrous. It's a public location, there is no expectation of privacy.

    And that's on top of the assumption of these ... "pigs" is fair, here ... that they should be immune to citizen oversight. There's no way that *SEVEN* *EXTRA* *COPS* were needed to arrest him.

  • It's pretty clearly noted in the article that only the audio portion of the recording was considered to fall afoul of the law. But, a videotape of a person speaking could be taken to a person who lip-reads to obtain a later transcript of a conversation. (And how admissible might such a transcript be if needed later?)

    I'm also curious to know whether the subject, as a passenger in the vehicle, would be considered a party to the conversation (something that some wiretapping statutes take into account).
  • What ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joebert (946227) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @07:57PM (#19484625) Homepage

    Carlisle Police Chief Stephen Margeson said allowing Kelly to plead to a lesser charge might be proper. "I don't think that would cause anyone any heartburn," he said. "I don't believe there was any underlying criminal intent here."


    If you don't believe there was criminal intent, why the fuck was he arrested & why should he plead guilty to a lessor charge ?

    Sue the fuckers !
  • The police told us that they were going to make sure that there weren't any more cases like Rodney King's, and it looks like they're on their way to delivering on that promise.

    Next time, they'll have solid law to prosecute any SOB who films them at work and the recordings (being illegally obtained) won't be usable in court.

  • No (Score:5, Informative)

    by r_jensen11 (598210) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @07:58PM (#19484633)
    I forget which case it was, I had to do a research project on it about 4 years ago, but it involved wiretapping in public areas. The incident involved wiretapping a payphone booth that was used regularly by the defendent for placing bets on sports events over the phone (both betting on sports and gambling over phone lines were illegal at the time.) The FBI claimed that because the pay phone was in a public area that they were free to tap it because it wasn't considered a private area. The court ruled in favor of the defendent, stating that conversations in this type of pay phone booth, which had a door that closed so nobody outside could hear, was reasonably expected by the publicto be a place where one could hold a conversation in private. The general ruling is that if there is a commonly accepted expectation of privacy, a warrant is required. The incidence for the case here is that the police were out in public on the streets. Nobody can reasonably believe that a conversation in the street is a private event. Therefore, this case should be closed and in favour of Mr. Kelly. Update: The case I referenced in the beginning of this post is Katz v. United States. I found an audio recording of the case 4 years ago that was in mp3 format. It can be found at http://www.oyez.org/oyez/resource/case/198/argumen t.mp3 [oyez.org], along with the transcript at http://www.oyez.org/oyez/audio/198/argument-ra.smi l [oyez.org]
    • Re:No (Score:5, Informative)

      by idesofmarch (730937) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:52PM (#19485129)
      That is an interesting story but has nothing to do with this case. Your case revolves around whether or not police are allowed to place a particular wiretap, which is a completely different matter. Bear in mind, when police tap a phone, neither party to the conversation is aware of the recording. A warrant is required for this, and the government must meet a certain burden of proof to get such a warrant.

      The present case involves civilian wiretapping, which is probably completely legal in PA if all parties consent to the recording, but illegal if one or more parties is unaware or does not consent.

  • by nurb432 (527695) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:08PM (#19484719) Homepage Journal
    It boils down to if the person being arrested had a reasonable expectation of privacy. Just because you are 'out in public' doesnt mean you cant expect some level of personal privacy.

    Now, the fact that there is a 'state offical' involved too, it makes things much more complex. There is no black and white 'covers all situations' answer here.
  • Nothing to hide? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by isotope23 (210590) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:08PM (#19484721) Homepage Journal
    What happened to all that claptrap about if you've got nothing to hide you should'nt mind being taped?
    Isn't that the crap the authorities come back with when people complain about CCTV cameras?
    I'm guessing the COPS were videotaping the arrest with a car camera, if so, THEY have already CONSENTED
    to having their actions recorded while on the job.

    They are employees of the public going about public business IN PUBLIC. They damn well better be able to be recorded
    or we are in serious trouble.
  • ACLU (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:13PM (#19484763) Journal
    I bet that ACLU will take this on. It seems like a pretty easy case. Police on the job are NOT private, they are in the public domain. As such, we have the right to video and tape them. Likewise, we have the right to record a politician who is busy making a speech or operating in the public.
  • by SpaceLifeForm (228190) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:17PM (#19484815)
    Just ask MPAA and RIAA.

    Oh, you meant actual cops? Never mind.

  • by dwater (72834) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:19PM (#19484841)
    ...it's the same in China.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cpaglee (665238)
      Actually, it is NOT the same in China. Something like this could almost NEVER happen in China. In China the VAST majority of police do not carry guns. Daily policing is divided into two sectors: "Public Peace" officers and "Traffic Police" - those are literal translations. Traffic police are ONLY authorized to regulate traffic, so they have no authority or control over a bystander filming them. Traffic police in China are not armed, so they do not have the power of the gun behind them to intimidate the phot
  • Such a reach (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:38PM (#19485015)
    This is such a reach. Heck, under this interpretation, anyone shouting out loud at any public demonstration could not be videotaped by news crews without his permission. We know TV news crews aren't being busted for this. Where is the ACLU? They should eat this case up for lunch. Allow this to stand, and you cover up police misdeeds since they'll have the only record of the encounter as evidence. A total fucking crock!

    The officer probably didn't know of the wiretap law either, and the DA was fortunate to find it, or they'd be even worse off than they are now. Arrested for no reason at all. They clearly wanted to harass and scare the kid, which the obviously succeeded at. Now the city should fork over $100K compensation, along with a sincere apology in the process.

    If it ever goes to trial, and I was on the jury, it would be Jury Nullification all the way, baby!

  • Defense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spiritraveller (641174) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:39PM (#19485017)
    "Kelly is charged under a state law that bars the intentional interception or recording of anyone's oral conversation without their consent."

    The officer DID consent to have the conservation recorded. In fact, he was recording it with his own audio/video system.

    He didn't consent to have it on the defendant's tape... but unless the statute draws that line, the court should not either.
  • by TheDarkener (198348) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @08:56PM (#19485163)
    "If they're not doing anything wrong, they shouldn't have anything to worry about."

    Snoop onto them, as they snoop onto us!!
  • by moxley (895517) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @09:19PM (#19485305)
    I guess this would fall under "attempting to police the police" (which IS needed in a lot of cases) and is one of the actions listed in the FBI JTTF pamphlet as being the action of a "potential domestic terrorist."

    This is bullshit. It's clear that this is an abuse of power to stop people from being able to document further abuses of power. It's meant to also have a chilling effect and prevent others from doing the same.

    Remember, one of the stated definitions of "terrorist" by the current administration is people who:

    are Defenders of the Constitution
    reference the constitution and the bill of rights
    are property rights advocates
    are loners

    this is from an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force pamphlet which you can see here:

    http://www.welfarestate.com/pamphlet/ [welfarestate.com]

    If a cop is doing his or her job, he or she should be proud to be videotaped.

    Now if someone was following a cop all day with a videocam for no good reason, I can see where that could maybe be an issue - but it should be fine to videotape a traffic stop on a public street, especially if you are the one being stopped.

    The fascism keeps creeping.
  • Law is messed up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @09:40PM (#19485483) Homepage

    By this interpretation of the law anyone with a camcorder at a back yard cookout or public event is committing a felony, unless you have permission from everyone there. Unless they call out every exception, then TV news crews are roving criminal bands. It's ridiculous. The fact they're police officers is irrelevant. There's no expectation of privacy in a public place and the same standards should apply to audio as video.

    This is completely insane.

    • by Jeff Molby (906283)

      By this interpretation of the law anyone with a camcorder at a back yard cookout or public event is committing a felony, unless you have permission from everyone there.
      No, if the camcorder is clearly visible, you have the implied consent of of everyone. The law has serious problems, but let's not exaggerate them.
  • by martinX (672498) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @10:10PM (#19485737)
    Camp Hill is to buy a street-sweeper. You heard it here first. I mean, second. Maybe third.

    http://blog.pennlive.com/patriotnews/2007/06/camp_ hill_to_buy_street_sweepi.html [pennlive.com]
  • by gelfling (6534) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @11:11PM (#19486179) Homepage Journal
    Everyone knows that. Here in NC it's a felony to tape cops who come to your own house, for instance if you have a surveillance camera at the front door and the cop comes to your door to talk to you or serve a warrant it is in fact illegal for the homeowner to record that 'interaction' in any way.

    Also, the state legislature is working on a bill to exempt all police from all traffic violations at all times if they are in their official vehicles whether they are on duty or pursuing someone or not.
  • by ryanisflyboy (202507) on Tuesday June 12, 2007 @11:15PM (#19486201) Homepage Journal
    Now this is just silly. The police have cameras in their car. I realize they don't always turn them on, particularly when 'bad' things happen. But hey! Nobody is perfect! The police are not out to get you. They don't want to take you to jail just to meet a quota, or because they are on a power trip. When you video the police what you are saying is: "We don't trust you." And that is just plain wrong. So wrong, in fact, it should be criminal.

    Why, just the other day the neighbors called the cops to come visit me. I have such great neighbors. The officer said it was because someone *heard* a child crying. Think of that, they just wanted to be sure my children were happy. Of course, a crying child is very concerning. Why would a child cry? Well, only two reasons I know of: because you are hitting them with a shovel, or they want to stay up past their bed time. I'm sure my neighbor would know that my kids never cry at bedtime, so they naturally assumed a shovel.

    The officer who showed up was such a friendly chap. He came in to my home and woke my kids by shining his flashlight in their faces. The kids thought it was a riot! We all had a good laugh afterwords. See kids! See what fun it is to be woken up by a big police officer with a gun and a flashlight in your face!? Good times. My two year old son especially appreciated it. I think he really grew to appreciate the police that day.

    Well, the cop did his job. None of my kids were bleeding, nor had any signs of child abuse at all. He could see they were probably crying because they wanted to stay up and watch that friendly purple dinosaur. See how we trusted the police fully? I can let a complete stranger with a loaded weapon in to my child's bedroom and not have a care in the world. Why? Because he is an officer of the law. Just for good measure, of course, he referred us to the local child abuse center in order to keep our kids safe. What a great police officer. The city's finest I tell you. I wouldn't dream of video taping them because I trust them fully.

    My wife sat in tears as the police officer left. She was so thrilled about the visit.

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