Ground-Breaking Victory For the Common Man: First Circuit Court Rules Videotaping Cops Is Protected By First Amendment
September 2nd, 2011
Whip out those cell phones and video cameras – we have great news!
It’s official, and the message to public servants is clear – Americans’ right to video record police while they are executing their duties in a public venue fits comfortably within first amendment activity:
Hear ye, hear ye!!
The First Circuit Court of Appeals–the highest federal court for New England just below the U.S. Supreme Court–last Friday handed down a ground-breaking decision defending our right to videotape the police and other public officials as they engage in their official duties…
On Friday, the First Circuit agreed. In a decision that reads like an ode to the First Amendment as key to both liberty and democracy, the court wrote:
“The filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities, fits comfortably within these principles [of protected First Amendment activity]. Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting the free discussion of governmental affairs.”
“Basic First Amendment principles, along with case law from this and other circuits, answer that question unambiguously in the affirmative.”
The Court further stated that such protections should have been clear to the police all along, noting that the right to videotape police carrying out their duties in a public forum is “fundamental and virtually self-evident”
“The public’s right of access to information is coextensive with that of the press.”
“Moreover, changes in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw,” the Court continued. “The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.”