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Motorcyclist Wins Taping Case Against State Police 485

Posted by Soulskill
from the development-on-camera-tasers-continues dept.
stevegee58 writes "Slashdot readers may recall the case of a Maryland motorcyclist (Anthony Graber) arrested and charged with wiretapping violations (a felony) when he recorded his interaction with a Maryland State Trooper. Today, Judge Emory A. Pitt threw out the wiretapping charges against Graber, leaving only his traffic violations to be decided on his October 12 trial date. 'The judge ruled that Maryland's wire tap law allows recording of both voice and sound in areas where privacy cannot be expected. He ruled that a police officer on a traffic stop has no expectation of privacy.' A happy day for freedom-loving Marylanders and Americans in general."
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Motorcyclist Wins Taping Case Against State Police

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  • Alright! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chaboud (231590) on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:21PM (#33717684) Homepage Journal

    Let's hear it for a sudden outbreak of common sense from the judiciary!

    Now, of course, this judge is going to get pulled over every day, even if he walks to work.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pjfontillas (1743424)
      Thank goodness. Lately all I've been reading about is how we're getting screwed by court decisions left and right. Good to hear something done right.
      • Re:Alright! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ICLKennyG (899257) on Monday September 27, 2010 @07:03PM (#33718018)
        The problem however remains that the judge did not sanction the DA or AG who decided that this obvious abuse of the law was a good idea. This is easily rule 11 territory as any first year law student can tell you there is no privacy expectation in a public place. The fact remains is that this guy had to fight to get his rights vindicated and too often, fighting is too expensive.
        • Re:Alright! (Score:5, Interesting)

          by HangingChad (677530) on Monday September 27, 2010 @08:08PM (#33718520) Homepage

          The problem however remains that the judge did not sanction the DA or AG who decided that this obvious abuse of the law was a good idea.

          And what stops them or the state patrol from doing it again? Just because the charges are dropped doesn't mean there's no penalty. Dude has an arrest record now, even if he gets that expunged, it's still in a database somewhere.

          Unless the victims sue and start winning big judgments, this behavior isn't going to change.

          • Re:Alright! (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Tom (822) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @12:40AM (#33719772) Homepage Journal

            And what stops them or the state patrol from doing it again?

            It's called a precedent.

            Next time this goes to court, the judge will look at them funny and essentially say "you know this has been decided. Why, pray tell, are you wasting my time?"

        • Re:Alright! (Score:4, Informative)

          by jhylkema (545853) on Monday September 27, 2010 @09:40PM (#33719024)

          This is easily rule 11 territory as any first year law student can tell you . . .

          Any first year law student can tell you that Rule 11 is a civil rule, not a criminal one.

          I don't know why I waste my time . . .

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Gaygirlie (1657131)

        Good to hear something done right.

        Don't worry, they'll get another judge and fix this.

    • Re:Alright! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by phantomfive (622387) on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:31PM (#33717770) Journal
      And then suddenly, all of the traffic tickets issued by certain policemen are getting dismissed. I mean, if the police are going to play unfair, the judge is one of the people most capable of fighting back. Police VS Legal system = legal system win.
      • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday September 27, 2010 @07:32PM (#33718258)

        They have the ability to make your life difficult. Not even spiteful things like "I'll throw out your traffic tickets." They know they law, they know when you are breaking it and with what you can be charged. Further, they have connections and sway with the prosecutors. They also make rather credible witnesses. If the cops decided to wage a campaign against a judge, good bet they'd wind up on the wrong side of criminal charges. While they may be used to people taking their word of a defendant, wouldn't be the case with a judge. Of course the judge in that case would probably also be sympathetic to their colleague and so on.

        Going after a judge would be just about the worst thing the cops could do.

    • Re:Alright! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Whomp-Ass (135351) on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:32PM (#33717784)

      It's usually a bad idea for the police to meddle in the affairs of the members of the judiciary and/or legislative body. For instance, near my hometown in Cleveland, a cop pulled over one of the members Of the state legislature and gave him a ticket. Said legislator introduced a bill, the next week, requiring that all municipalities in the state must have, in order to patrol the highways within their jurisdiction, x size of population and y amount of highway running through it (something like, greater than a mile or two). The town in question only had a quarter mile of highway. They also realized something like 75-85 percent of their income via speeding tickets...all gone...

      • Re:Alright! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by muridae (966931) on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:52PM (#33717940)

        And this is different from the cop with a power trip, who issues you a speeding ticket just because you do something he doesn't like? Both of them are taking their personal grudges out of people, and doing so to the detriment of the people they are supposed to represent and protect. Garbage, all around.

        I do know of a town with about a mile of highway and a ton of revenue from tickets. Seeing them unable to enforce the ones that are deserved would be just as distressing as seeing them creating ones that don't exist.

        • by King_TJ (85913) on Monday September 27, 2010 @07:55PM (#33718442) Journal

          In this scenario, I'd be happy to see the turn-about, because I'm against the whole concept of cops issuing speeding tickets as it's currently done. The REAL point to the whole exercise is SUPPOSED to be about improving motorist safety. (At least, that's sure what the cops are constantly heard to claim, whenever someone protests the high cost of a ticket.) IF this were really true, the right way to approach the problem would be handling out tickets for unsafe driving practices, period. That means, for example, treating all speed limit signs as "recommendations". Stop the nonsense of automatically ticketing any driver exceeding that posted limit by X miles per hour at the second they went by a radar or laser speed gun! Instead, observe how people are driving. Give out tickets to the people who swerve into a lane of traffic without signaling, or the idiot who slams on his/her brakes on the interstate suddenly, without good reason. And yes, occasionally issue a ticket for driving excessively slow or fast too -- but not JUST because of the sign. If everyone is driving approximately the same speed, whether it exceeds the "speed limit" or not, look for the odd one out who won't drive with the flow of traffic. He or she presents much more of a danger or impedance to the traffic than anyone else in that group! For that matter, it wouldn't hurt to take the type of vehicle into account! (You can't take turns safely at as high of a speed in a large truck or SUV as you can in a sports car. So for one, the speed might be perfectly "safe" while it's not for the other.)

          The fact is though, speeding tickets are a big revenue generator (AKA. tax), thinly veiled with the lie about it being for "your safety".

          • by Apatharch (796324) on Monday September 27, 2010 @08:25PM (#33718628)
            Nice idea, assuming the traffic cops enforce the laws reasonably. If, on the other hand, they're prone to issuing tickets excessively, this would only give them greater latitude to do so.
            • by whois (27479) on Monday September 27, 2010 @10:29PM (#33719282) Homepage

              Just remove the monetary incentive. Fines are a stupid idea for a punishment even in a capitalist system. They favor the rich and abuse the poor. Instead make the punishment for all minor infractions be community service. What you would see is:

              People not speeding so they don't get caught because they don't want to do community service.
              Cops not pulling people over that don't deserve it because it doesn't help their quota/benefit them in some way.
              Cleaner streets, etc from people doing actual community service that benefits the community (once they run out of "good" jobs to give all the people who want to spend 120 hours reading to kids)

              You could argue this benefits the rich even more at least the idle rich since they have more free time for community service, but they are less likely to want to waste their time on it.

          • by Tom (822) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @12:37AM (#33719764) Homepage Journal

            Having been in a position where I made the rules, I also learnt an important lesson that most people don't ever learn explicitly, but still treasure:

            Rules give you certainty. In your examples, I as a driver never know when someone else (a cop) will consider my driving inadequate and cite more for it. With a fixed speed limit, I can glance at the speedometer and know for certain whether I'm good or not.

            There have been a great number of interesting studies that show that clear and well-known rules, no matter how nonsensical and arbitrary they are, have a calming psychological effect while uncontrollable external judgement causes constant stress. So if you want to create a society of permanently stressed-out people, then by all means continue pushing for your proposal.

            PS:
            In my country (Germany), an equivalent of your rule already exists in addition to the usual rules, or rather as its preface. 1 of our traffic laws book says that drivers shall at all times drive cautiously and considerate. You don't easily get a ticket for violating that, but this is what gets you in trouble when you try to argue the sign said "80" in strong winds, heavy rainfall and 10m visibility.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Wyatt Earp (1029)

      No way, if theres a group that the police won't fark with, it'd the judges.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cynyr (703126)

      it's not the speeding ticket(the reason he was pulled over in the first place) that was dismissed. It was the wire tapping charge, for wearing a head mounted camera that was. If you remember this was the plain clothes off duty cop that cut the motorcyclist off, then got out of his car with is firearm drawn, and shouted "hand up and get of the motorcycle slowly" a few times and then finally said "get off the bike state police" all while having his badge mostly covered by his shirt. The motorcyclist admitted

  • Flip side (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    A happy day for freedom-loving Marylanders and Americans in general.

    But a sad loss for power tripping pigs.

  • What? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by U8MyData (1281010) on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:23PM (#33717700)
    A public employee's expectation of privacy? They are public servants and as such should never have an expectation of privacy while on duty. I'm happy about the decision. We need more like it....
    • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by icebraining (1313345) on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:31PM (#33717774) Homepage

      I don't agree that they never have an expectation of privacy, but they certainly don't when they're interacting with the public.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Ehm... 'public servant' need not automatically imply 'open for public view'. Examples: court cases behind closed doors (rarely, but sometimes for good reasons), public servants working with privacy-sensitive information (like your tax returns, medical records), etc, etc.

      Location where it happens is the deciding factor IMHO. If it can be seen on/from a public road, it's fair game regardless who or what.

  • by Palestrina (715471) * on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:24PM (#33717706) Homepage

    ... that cameras are not allowed in many/most court rooms.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      ... that cameras are not allowed in many/most court rooms.

      It's not ironic because there is an expectation of privacy in a courtroom. Hypothetical: I accuse you of being a pedophile, procure tons of evidence against you, which I display in court. Sure, the case gets thrown out (maybe I face charges myself, but I'm reckless that way), but someone videotapes the proceedings, edits out the juicy bits and puts it up on youtube without context. Pretty sure your life's ruined.

      If my fate's being determined, that's between me, the lawyers, the defendant/plaintiff, and

      • Isn't this the basic script for court cases now.
        only the reporters just take a sketch book and take notes.

      • by StikyPad (445176) on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:50PM (#33717920) Homepage

        No, there's no expectation of privacy in a courtroom (in the US) except in certain circumstances, usually involving a minor. The proceedings are open, anyone may attend, and transcripts are public record. The ban on cameras in most circumstances has more to do with maintaining decorum -- so people aren't playing to the cameras -- than with preserving non-existent expectations of privacy.

      • by blair1q (305137) on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:52PM (#33717934) Journal

        there is an expectation of privacy in a courtroom.

        No, there isn't.

        Exactly the opposite, in fact.

        Everything that transpires in a courtroom is public knowledge. It's against the law for the public to be excluded completely*. Reporters, sketch artists, and members of the general public can all sit in the gallery during a trial.

        Technological means of recording are a tiny fraction of the age of the legal system, so the legal system does not yet (and probably never will) consider them necessary implements to be used in informing the public, so the use of them is at the court's discretion.

        * - there are exceptions where there are statutory claims of privacy, such as when the evidence is classified or the defendant is a minor.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by dkleinsc (563838)

          Not only that, it should be pointed out that the public nature of a criminal trial is enshrined in Sixth Amendment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Kenja (541830)
      Irony... you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
  • by Culture20 (968837) on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:25PM (#33717716)
    "a police officer on a traffic stop", or "a non-uniformed police officer on a traffic stop using a non-labeled vehicle, not identifying himself as police before pointing a gun like a crazy man"?
    • by snowgirl (978879)

      "a police officer on a traffic stop", or "a non-uniformed police officer on a traffic stop using a non-labeled vehicle, not identifying himself as police before pointing a gun like a crazy man"?

      We can only hope for the answer to be "both".

    • by jamesh (87723)

      "a non-uniformed police officer on a traffic stop using a non-labeled vehicle, not identifying himself as police before pointing a gun like a crazy man"?

      I'm not completely sure but I think that someone pointing a gun at you in a public place has already waived their right to privacy, be they police office or generic crazy person.

      That said, if someone points a gun at you, hasn't identified themselves as a police officer, and asks you to put the camera away, i think it's probably best to comply. There are no outcomes in such a situation that are going to be a win for privacy.

    • by Mitsoid (837831) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @04:06AM (#33720574)
      -- No lights ( / unmarked car )
      -- No badge
      -- No uniform
      -- Gun drawn
      -- Charging me telling me to get off my vehicle
      -- Put hand on bike yelling at the driver
      -- Closes to 2-3 feet from driver

      As he has not yet identified himself as a police officer one would assume he is a crazy/road rage civilian, or a carjacker (motorcycle thief), that is charging me with a deadly weapon drawn.

      If you are a cop (or identifiable as such), then I would not defend myself, nor would I expect you to use your gun offensively.
      If you are not a cop (or not identifiable as a cop), I assume you're a thief and are using the gun as a weapon to deprive me of life and/or property

      At the first opportunity (in this case, when you were 2 feet away from me with a gun drawn, not pointed at me) I would have attacked you, as you are currently identified (to my mind trying to decide fight/flight) as a thief and/or really pissed off civilian... and you presented me with an opportunity to defend myself from you and get away... Probably harming you and/or myself in the process... It may not be the 'right' choice, but It is what you (police officers) preach (as in, self defense), and I'm a full supporter of that.

      Anyway, Any cops that read this, please keep this in mind when you charge a civilian with your gun out... Identify yourself as an officer... Otherwise, everything your department tells civilians to do is "to run away, or defend your life if you are unable to run"
  • How can you prosecute under a wiretapping statute if there is no wire involved where a conversation is being intercepted? Clearly, the judge got the right idea.

  • by Concern (819622) * on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:30PM (#33717764) Journal

    What about the asshole cops and prosecutor that put this sick joke of a "wiretapping case" on the taxpayers tab?

    Anyone losing their jobs? Suspensions?

    If this isn't malicious prosecution, what the fuck on earth is?

    If we all just walk away from this without going any further, expect another case just like it next week, and another the week after. The point is intimidation, after all. Plus eventually they'll get some idiot judge who agrees with them.

    • by sjames (1099) on Monday September 27, 2010 @07:21PM (#33718172) Homepage

      I would like to think the cop gets convicted of assault as well for brandishing a weapon before properly identifying himself, especially since it was supposedly a traffic stop. The police aren't supposed to make citizens fear for their lives over a traffic stop. They're actually supposed to stop other people from making citizens fear for their lives.

      • by HereIAmJH (1319621) <HereIAmJH@@@hdtrvs...org> on Monday September 27, 2010 @08:55PM (#33718802)

        I don't know about Maryland, but in my part of the country police NEVER make a traffic stop with an unmarked vehicle. There have been problems with women being assaulted by fake officers. But depending on the situation (it's not possible to determine when the patrol car arrived), if someone in an unmarked car like that cut me off, then jumped out and pulled a weapon, quite likely they would be removing my bike from his teeth.

        The apparently off duty officer never should have been involved since there were uniformed officers in marked patrol cars present. This should be a training film on how to do something incredibly unprofessional and stupid that will get your ass fired.

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:30PM (#33717766)

    He'll spend a lifetime in that county getting pulled over for crossing the yellow line and not signaling on lane changes.

    • by dcmoebius (1527443) on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:35PM (#33717800)

      He'll spend a lifetime in that county getting pulled over for crossing the yellow line and not signaling on lane changes.

      Which still seems a helluva lot better than being convicted of a felony.

    • No, probalby not (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sycraft-fu (314770)

      I hear conspiracy theories like this but I've never seen any evidence of it happening. Reason is that the cops would get in trouble. If they follow someone all the time and harass them, that is precisely the kind of thing plenty of lawyers would be happy to take to trial. Also, this particular guy is known to record things. So if you have someone waiting outside his house all the time, following him everywhere he goes to pull him over continuously, well expect in short order to wind up on the receiving end

      • Re:No, probalby not (Score:4, Informative)

        by sokoban (142301) on Monday September 27, 2010 @09:03PM (#33718836) Homepage

        I hear conspiracy theories like this but I've never seen any evidence of it happening. Reason is that the cops would get in trouble.

        Uh, no. I was born and raised in a small town in central Kentucky. My mother was the city attorney. One police officer failed to get an oil change or routine maintenance on his cruiser for 20,000 miles (they are allowed to take their cruisers home, but get free maintenance at the city garage). The engine on his cruiser then failed and had to be replaced. As a result, my mom set in motion the proceedings to have the officer fired. The city was unable to fire him, and from there on out he would, whenever he saw me driving around town, follow me and pull me over for minor offenses such as speeding less than 5 mph over the posted limits. Eventually, his wife got a job in another city and they moved.

        The fact of the matter is that it is VERY difficult to have police fired. It used to be commonplace for mayors to come in and fire most of the police department and repopulate it with his cronies, now there are all sorts of laws protecting police officers.

        • by cawpin (875453) on Tuesday September 28, 2010 @01:39AM (#33720010)

          whenever he saw me driving around town, follow me and pull me over for minor offenses such as speeding less than 5 mph over the posted limits.

          While I see what you're saying, he was an asshole, all you have to do is not give him an opportunity to BE an asshole by following traffic laws. They aren't that hard to follow and, as a pet peeve of mine, not signaling, on a lane change or otherwise, is one of the most asshole things you can DO on a road. Nobody can read your mind so use the fucking signal.

          Thanks.

  • Next step (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135)

    Sue the city and the cops for malicious prosecution.

  • by Haeleth (414428) on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:33PM (#33717792) Journal

    If their legal theory had held up, next thing we know we'd have had homeowners facing 10+ years in prison for "wiretapping" burglars' conversations on CCTV.

    (Ooh, and the burglar was whistling "Happy Birthday", so you're liable for $160,000 in damages to the RIAA as well ...)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by virg_mattes (230616)
      Ha! Shows what you know! He'd have to be singing the words for it to be a problem, since the tune matches "Good Morning To You" and therefore is public domain.

      Take that!

      In all seriousness, though, the prosecutor wasn't high, he was trying to make his job easier. With restrictions on recordings of traffic stops, it's harder to prove mistakes in procedure. Based on the ruling, more cases will show up with recordings, which makes it tougher to prosecute the violations. It's self-serving but at least t
    • by snowgirl (978879)

      If their legal theory had held up, next thing we know we'd have had homeowners facing 10+ years in prison for "wiretapping" burglars' conversations on CCTV.

      (Ooh, and the burglar was whistling "Happy Birthday", so you're liable for $160,000 in damages to the RIAA as well ...)

      CCTV doesn't come with audio recording precisely because in some states it is a violation of their wiretapping laws to record audio. It's not the BURGLARS that have an expectation of privacy in this case, but rather, employees and customers.

  • device primarily useful for the purpose of the surreptitious interception of oral communications

    They would put an end to recording devices in public just to win one stupid case against a kid on a bike. And what about that redneck cop that bursts out with a gun and no identification? I hope he gets canned? No mention.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Lehk228 (705449)
      And what about that redneck cop that bursts out with a gun and no identification?

      if that is his habit, eventually the natural consequences will take care of him, hopefully whoever is involved is not vilified as a "cop killer" but he probably will be. either that or he'll fall down the stairs and land head first on a bullet on the way to the police station
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Thing 1 (178996)

        either that or he'll fall down the stairs and land head first on a bullet on the way to the police station

        My first interaction with the cops, drunk at age 16 and "trespassing" (went back to the house the party was at, but the sitter who invited everyone over was gone, and his sister had come home and was unwelcoming), they cuffed me and then I fell down a flight of stairs. And, unfortunately, I was too drunk to later recall whether I tripped or was pushed (or simply "wasn't restrained from falling", a sof

  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:35PM (#33717804)
    Rather than read about the judge's amazingly sane and rational decision, I would have preferred to see the video of him handing down the ruling, but I guess cameras are not allowed in the court room.
  • In other news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by emt377 (610337) on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:37PM (#33717816)
    Idiot cowboy cop racks up tens of thousands of dollars in damages to be paid by taxpayers to issue a $125 traffic citation. Where do they even find inept morons like this?
  • by i_b_don (1049110) on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:44PM (#33717870)

    I'm happy to hear the verdict, but it always strikes me as sad how we only seem to win the most obvious of court cases these days. I mean, who in their right mind would think it is not OK to videotape in public, or that we needed to "protect" the police from video cameras?!

    From the stupid fucken judiciary that hasn't outlawed torture yet (despite it being on the books), who let the government get away with warrantless wiretapping, assassinations of american citizens, and who thinks its ok for an $80,000 per song downloaded verdict....

    I'm happy with this verdict, but overall I'm still massively frustrated.

    d

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by demonlapin (527802)
      Don't get too excited. In Illinois, you still can't record audio of your traffic stop (although the cops can). Possibly video, too.
  • How much leverage does Graber have to go after this blatantly unjust perversion of police powers?

    I would donate to such a cause... these proto-fascists need to be put in their place...

    just the other day, a cop car pulled out wildly ahead of another motorist, turned on his siren and lights, zoomed past a few other cars, then shut off his siren... who's to bet there was no emergency other than the cop's inflated ego?

  • Is it "wire tapping" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dmomo (256005) on Monday September 27, 2010 @06:59PM (#33717992) Homepage

    If the device is out in the open, and you disclose this to the other party? Can the other party actually require that you turn the device off even if it's on your own property? What about in your own car. I think that at some point, "recorded" is going to become more and more fuzzy.

    What if I write something down as you're saying it? What if a robot hears and transcribes it for me into text? What if I commit it to memory? What if my memory is enhanced? Where does the line get drawn? Or does it?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 27, 2010 @07:02PM (#33718012)

    Majority on that forum wished this stop would've ended in a not so favorable manor for the motorcyclist. That forum seems to hate 'civilians' for some reason.

  • by PPH (736903) on Monday September 27, 2010 @08:00PM (#33718466)

    Law enforcement has their head so far up their ass they do have an expectation of privacy.

    Can you hear me now? [bambamworld.com]

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday September 27, 2010 @09:27PM (#33718944) Homepage

    One of the more amusing camera issues has been red light cameras photographing cops running red lights. [findlaw.com] The processing of the images is usually outsourced and automated, and the company doing the work handles the process. The cops have to either pay up or go to court. There is much whining about this.

    Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw writes to other police departments: "Please advise your members if they are captured on camera in their vehicles running the red light at these intersections, they will be cited. The only remedy for relief will be through the traffic court system. All law enforcement personnel must understand the high standard of conduct is applied to them in order for the public to have confidence in their departments and the officers."

    Somebody gets it.

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