Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Does the First Amendment Protect Citizen Journalists Who Film Police?

Does the First Amendment protect a citizen's right to film police officers while they perform their duties? The Supreme Court hasn't ruled, but some lower courts have. See Gericke v. Weare (1st Circuit) and Glik v. Cunliffe (1st Circuit), Smith v. City of Cumming (11th Circuit), ACLU v. Alvarez (7th Circuit), generally upholding the right of the public to film officers who are in public, discharging their duties, and when the activities are of public interest and the individual filming is not interfering with the officer's activities.

In the wake of police shootings in Baton Rouge, LA, and Falcon Heights, MN, and shootings of officers in Dallas, TX, here's a short discussion of the issue from the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). See also this article in the New York Times, reporting that Ruben An has filed a lawsuit against the New York Police Department, claiming that the NYPD violated his rights by interfering with him while he filmed officers interacting with another person in 2014. Police arrested Mr. An; some charges were later dropped, and he was acquitted on the remaining counts.

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