Federal Court: ‘Filming Police Is A Right Of Every Citizen’

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For years, the public and the police have battled over who has the right to film in public. Altercations in the street have broken out between citizens and law enforcement, which have quite often resulted in arrests and violence towards members of the public by police. The courts have now decided to establish some legality, and it seems they’re on the public’s side.

Filming Of Police Now A Civil Right

A 2017 federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Phillip Turner against three police officers is what ultimately influenced the decision. Turner filed suit against officers Driver, Grinald, and Dyes from Fort Worth, Texas, after the officers arrested him for filming a Fort Worth police station from across the street. The officers initially approached Turner asking that he ID himself. When he refused, he was immediately handcuffed and put into the back of their patrol car.

This is the first time the filming of police has been established as First Amendment right. In fact, U.S. District Judge Mark Kearney of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania had previously ruled that the First Amendment did not cover such acts. Turner is adamant that the amendment by nature includes recording of law enforcement. However, the Supreme Court has previously insisted on a number of occasions that established laws can’t always be completely generalized. In other words, at the time of Turner’s arrest, there was no legality protecting his right to those activities. But because of the Texas lawsuit, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has now changed that. The ruling is as follows:

“We conclude that First Amendment principles, controlling authority, and persuasive precedent demonstrates that a First Amendment right to record the police does exist, subject only to reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions.”

In addition to citing First Amendment rights, Turner also contends that the officer’s actions were a violation of his rights under the Fourth Amendment. He was never jailed, but cites his detainment as a form of unreasonable arrest, and is intending to pursue all aspects of the case as far as the Supreme Court. Until then, a new precedent has been set, and those wishing to film police activity will be able to cite the Texas ruling in the hope that their local police and state comply.

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