Is it legal to use dash cams to record police brutality?

By June 5, 2020 No Comments

The death of George Floyd has sparked a world-wide protest against police brutality and racial injustice. The reason why this incident can cause such an uproar is that many people experienced police brutality or have been treated differently, but the police always get away because of a lack of evidence. George Floyd’s inhuman death has been caught on camera and went viral on the internet which, to some extent, led to the change of charge of the four police officers involved in this tragic case. 


Many of us might have experienced police brutality. Sometimes, filming and recording can not only help us get evidence of police to misbehave but also protect ourselves from facing false accusations. However, is it legal to record police officers on duty in public? The general answer to this question is yes. The first amendment of the constitution has given all American citizens and residents the right to videotape government officials, including law enforcement personnel. The right to collect news is not only limited to the media but also individual citizens. Ensuring the public’s right to collect official information not only helps to expose abuses of authority but may also have a beneficial impact on government operations.


However, some restrictions apply to the right and the restrictions vary from state to state.


  1. the first general rule is not to conceal your camera while recording.

In many states, you need all parties’ consent to record or videotape a conversation. If you were found trying to secretly record a police officer on duty, you may be charged with illegally recording. Take California as an example, secretly recording a police officer is a misdemeanor which may lead up to one year in prison and up to $1000 fine. So please make sure you are aware of your state’s recording laws and try to record police officers on duty as open as possible. 


If you are confronted by a police officer, don’t try to argue or verbally irate the police officer, simply assert your “first amendment rights”.


  1. Record in public


Generally speaking, you have the right to record in public without the consent of anyone. However, if you are on private property, you will need to follow the property’s owner or the police officer’s order. 


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