Is It Legal to Record Police Officers in Florida?
Thirty-eight states allow citizens to record police. Twelve states, including Florida, require the consent of all parties being recorded. Florida courts ruled that “parties” does not include on-duty police. In other words, it is legal in Florida, and most states, to openly record on-duty police.
Can I Get Arrested for Recording Police in Florida?
Just because it is technically legal in Florida to film police in places where they have no reasonable expectation of privacy, such as public places, and it does not physically interfere with their legal duty, does not mean you will not run into problems. Police may unfairly harass you, detain you, or take your recording device from you. Be prepared for the possibility that they may even arrest you for obstruction of justice, disorderly conduct, or violation of wiretapping laws. But no matter what, you cannot and will not be charged for illegally recording police.
Police may feel like being recorded is a challenge to their authority. Many times, police officers simply do not know the law and will try to prevent or stop recording even if you are not doing anything wrong. In those circumstances, you should minimize the appearance of any threat while also standing your ground.
Be Prepared to Respond
An officer may ask what you are doing. Avoid saying anything aggressive or defensive.
DO NOT SAY:
– “I am recording you to make sure you are doing your job right” or
– “It is a free country”
Instead, remain cool and calm.
– “I am playing with my phone’s capabilities” or
– “I am recording the action from a safe distance”
Do You Have to Identify Yourself to Police in Florida?
Florida officers can require you to identify yourself if they have reasonable suspicion that you are involved in criminal activity. One way to tell if they have reasonable suspicion is to determine if you are free to go by asking “Officer, are you detaining me, or am I free to go?”
If the officer says you are free or not being detained, it is your choice to stay or go. If you are being detained, you only have to provide your name (NOT your ID!), and it is up to you whether to provide anything further.
If an officer tells you it is illegal to record them, you have the option to politely present your knowledge of Florida state law by saying something like: “Officer, I am familiar with the law, and the courts have ruled that it does not apply to recording on-duty police.”
When Recording Police, Remember
Keep a Safe Distance. Do not run at, or stand close to an officer who is performing their duties. If an officer asks you to move further away and you feel you are already standing at a reasonable distance, you may say something like, “Officer, I have a right to be here. I am filming for documentation purposes and not interfering with your work.”
Do Not Shove The Camera In Their Faces. Hold your camera at waist level and tilt the device upward to record, or hold the device close to your body. It is far less confrontational than the paparazzi-like move of shoving the camera between you and the officer’s face.
Do Not Make Any Sudden Movements. Try to have your device ready early on. If it looks like you are scrambling to grab a gun, the police may reach for theirs.
Consider Downloading One Of The Free Police Recording Phone Apps if you have a smartphone. These apps allow you to save recordings even if your phone is put to sleep, and some allow you to continue recording while your device is in sleep mode.
Make Sure That Your Device Is Always Passcode Protected. Without your passcode, police will not be able to delete videos or personal information, even if they take or destroy your device. NEVER reveal your passcode!
Use Caution While Recording Any Law Enforcement Activity
REMEMBER! Be respectful. They are not your enemy. Police officers perform dangerous jobs that require them to make snap decisions about potential threats. Let them know that you are exercising your First Amendment Right to film and that if they feel you are a threat, to tell you right away, so you can alter any perceived behavior, to make them feel safe in the performance of their duties, short of you not exercising your right to record them.
Contact Clark Law for Free Legal Consultation
In the event that you are or have been arrested for recording police activity, please call Clark Law at (855)-680-4911 or submit a form so that we can protect your rights and discuss your legal options.