Can I Film Police While I’m Protesting?

At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, we have been receiving numerous calls from individuals who are questioning whether they can legally photograph or film police at the protests occurring throughout Southern California. Here is what you need to know about your rights if you want to attend a protest and take pictures or record videos.

  1. Protestors occupying public spaces have the right to photograph or film whatever is in plain view. This includes the police who are monitoring or arresting protestors.
  2. Law enforcement needs a warrant to confiscate or view photographs or videos you take without a warrant. It is important to note that it is well within the authority of police to order citizens to stop activities that are interfering with legitimate law enforcement operations.
  3. While police can order you to leave, they cannot delete any of the photos or videos you capture of them or the protest.

If you are stopped or arrested by police because you are filming or photographing a protest, remember the following to assert and defend your legal rights:

  1. Remain calm and act polite. Never physically resist if police attempt to arrest you.
  2. After you are stopped, ask if you are being detained or if you are free to go.
  3. Answering questions asked by police can make it seem like your interaction was voluntary. For this reason, remain silent if police decide to detain you or start questioning you about the pictures you have taken.
  4. You do not have to consent to a search of your film or recording.
  5. If your rights are violated during the arrest, make sure you try to remember important details, such as badge numbers and any witnesses who might have seen your interaction with police.

To learn more about other rights you have when protesting, please read our previous blog. To speak to a criminal defense lawyer at Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, give us a call at (800) 462-7160. We proudly offer free-case consultations, so don’t hesitate to reach out.