Your Right to Record: Protected by Law, Disrespected by Law Enforcement
What good is a right that our Police oppose?
Earlier this month, a video surfaced on social media of an incident involving Virginia teens pulled over by police for what initially seemed a routine traffic stop. The driver, Courtney Griffith, turned on her video camera as several Virginia Beach police officers pepper-sprayed and Tasered her 17-year-old friend, Brandon Wyne, while he sat in the back seat. Following her arrest, the police confiscated Griffith’s cellphone and deleted the video of the encounter, but she was able to recover the file and share it on social media.
In June 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that police cannot search a person’s cellphone without a warrant. Authorities are investigating the Virginia Beach incident but it appears that the police violated both Griffith’s First Amendment right to record and her Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable government searches and seizures.
The ruling builds on earlier efforts from Obama’s Department of Justice. In 2012, the DoJ intervened in a case before the U.S. District Court of Maryland with an unequivocal statement of support for an individual’s “First Amendment right to record police officers in the public discharge of their duties.”
“Officers violate citizens’ Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights when they seize and destroy such recordings without warrant or due process,” added the Department’s civil rights attorneys.