It’s been an issue that’s made the news across the country in recent years as more and more people walk around with video-recording equipped telephones. The issue is the people’s right to record police officers when acting in their official capacity. Many people have been arrested and some have been charged criminally for doing just this. One Connecticut lawmaker has introduced legislation that addresses this issue.
Perhaps trying to submit the shortest bill possible, Senator Martin Looney of the 11th District (yes the same one who introduced the gun registry legislation) has suggested in less than 200 words, that the people of Connecticut have a “right” to photograph or videotape an event.
The bill would amend the statutes to, “authorize a person to bring a civil action for damages against a police officer who has interfered with such person’s right to photograph or videotape an even if such person’s actions did not prevent or hinder the police officer performing his or her duties.”
Though this would make Connecticut one of the first states to address the issue via legislation, this proposed legislation does leave a few things to be desired.
First off, it only gives the people access to civil recourse. This means the citizen could file suit if their right to record was interfered with. It does not protect them against arrest or harassment. In addition, the language “if such actions did not hinder the police” opens the door for loose interpretation.
If it’s left to the police officer, whether or not their actions were hindered, you can be certain that the words “hinder” would appear in every police report involving a recording device. Worded correctly, someone standing off to the side of an arrest, recording, could seem to be a hindrance.
Currently, if you are recording police and it would amount to any other criminal violation you can be charged. It’s not the recording that would be against the law, but the potential problems the recording causes. For instance, a charge of obstruction or potentially disorderly conduct may be levied.
But, if an officer advises you that recording them is against the law—they would be wrong. It is not and no where within the Connecticut statutes will you find a criminal law that restricts recording of public officials acting within their official duty.
Whether or not this bill passes, we can expect to see additional cases of police recording in the news and in the courts. If you are facing criminal charges in Connecticut, whether a recording device is involved or not, contact me today for a consultation on your case.