On August 11, 2015, California clarified an individual’s right to photograph or make an audio or visual recording of a public officer, peace officer, or emergency medical technician.
We Americans enjoy recording events, including those involving police officers, until we get into trouble for it. While the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) asserts a “First Amendment right to record police officers in the public discharge of their duties,” there can be a question about whether it deters or prevents officers from performing their duties.
Several states, including Texas and Illinois, unsuccessfully sought to ban or severely curtail individuals’ rights to record officers. Furthermore, police officers in Virginia treated recording as an obstruction, confiscating and deleting a driver’s recording of police pepper-spraying and tasering her car’s backseat passenger.
California law also posed some questions about the propriety of recording officers. The law stated that a person who “willfully resists, delays, or obstructs any public officer, peace officer, or emergency medical technician in the discharge or attempt to discharge any of his or her duties shall be punished by a fine or imprisonment, or both, as specified.” Under certain circumstances, recording could be willfully resisting, delaying or obstructing.
Aware of the possibility that recording could be deemed obstruction in some situations, California passed SB 411, amending §§ 69 and 148 of the Penal Code to provide:
– The fact that a person takes a photograph or makes an audio or video recording of a public officer or peace officer, while the officer is in a public place or the person taking the photograph or making the recording is in a place he or she has the right to be:
– does not constitute, in and of itself, a violation;
– nor does it constitute reasonable suspicion to detain the person or probable cause to arrest the person.
Signed into law by Governor Brown and recorded with the Secretary of State on August 11, 2015, the amendment can be accessed here: SB 411
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