Date Posted: August 12, 2017
Posted By: Kris Dunn
Q: Can the police stop me from filming them? I saw an article on Facebook that said this is now illegal.
A: The recent case of Akins v. Knight has received quite a bit of publicity. In Akins, the plaintiff filed a civil lawsuit against five Missouri police officers claiming that his civil rights had been violated in several different ways, including denying him the right to videotape the police during an arrest. Akins disagreed with the ruling of the trial judge dismissing his case and finding for the police. Akins appealed the decision to the U.S. Appeals Court for the Eighth Circuit, which includes Missouri and other midwestern states, but does not include Florida. Therefore, the court’s decision does not apply to Florida.
The appellate court did not address the legality of the public filming the police as they execute their duties. Instead, the appeals court decided not to hear the case. Some legal commentators have interpreted the decision not to hear the case to mean that the Eighth Circuit agrees with the trial judge that the public cannot film the police. However, the decision does not specifically say that.
In any case, it is well settled in Florida that citizens may film the actions of the police so long as those actions take place in public and the persons being recorded are aware of the recording. While the police may make reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions in the way they are photographed, they cannot completely prohibit you from filming their conduct. Put simply, you can film an arrest, but you cannot allow your filming to disrupt the arrest. The mere act of filming is not disruptive, but disobeying an order to move back and film the arrest from elsewhere could be disruptive and may place you at risk of your own arrest.
Your First Amendment rights include the right to gather information about what public officials do on public property and record matters of public interest, including the actions of police when arresting a subject. However, state wire tapping laws may apply to certain types of recording of the police, so we encourage you to contact this law firm before you undertake any type of recording or surveillance of the police.
Please contact the office of Dunn & Miller, P.A. with any further questions you may have regarding your rights to video tape an officer.