/ 11.17.23

Can You Film Police in California?

Written by: Doug Ridley

Know Your Rights When Filming the Police

Many people are uncertain whether they are legally allowed to film the police during a traffic stop or investigation. While the vast majority of interactions with law enforcement are uneventful, some can become escalated. Filming the incident can help keep officers accountable and help to bring about change if there is evidence of misconduct. However, it is important to understand your rights before you start recording the police.

At Ridley Defense, we represent individuals who have been arrested or charged with a crime in Southern California. Our dedicated legal team can help you understand your rights. We are committed to helping you get your life back on track and ensuring you receive the best possible outcome in your case. Are you facing criminal charges? Contact our office at (805) 208-1866 to schedule a complimentary consultation. 

Is It Legal to Film Police in California?

California Penal Code 148(g) states that filming or taking a picture of an officer does not in and of itself constitute obstruction of justice. While there are exceptions, you are usually within your rights to make an audio or video recording of an officer. 

In general, a person may film or take pictures of police in:

  • A public place; or
  • A place where the person taking the picture or recording has a legal right to be.

Under this penal code, recording an officer does not give reasonable suspicion for them to detain you or probable cause for them to place you under arrest.

What Can I Video?

A good rule of thumb is that you are legally allowed to video anything that is in a public space and is in plain view. You must, however, have a legal right to be there. For example, you cannot trespass on another person’s property and record a video or take pictures. You also cannot harass an officer or attempt to obstruct their investigation.

Can an Officer Confiscate or Delete My Video?

If you are legally filming an officer, they cannot demand that you turn over your phone or camera without a warrant. Furthermore, an officer may not delete your photographs or videos.

Do I Have to Show That I Am Recording?

Another essential thing to remember is that you should not try to conceal or cover up the fact that you are recording. Under many circumstances, it is within your legal right to record an officer, so there should be no reason to attempt to hide your camera or phone. Furthermore, the law prevents you from attempting to record confidential communication without a person’s consent. 

What Should I Do If I Am Arrested for Taking a Video of the Police? 

If you are arrested for taking a video of the police, you need to be cooperative. As soon as possible, ask to speak to an attorney to ensure that your rights are protected. Remember, your right to video an officer does not give you the right to interfere with their duties. If you break a law while attempting to video or photograph an officer, there may be legal grounds for an arrest.

You should never attempt to stop the arrest of another person, even if you believe that the arrest is unjust. The best course of action is always to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. 

Contact Our Office to Learn More

Were you arrested for recording a police officer or another crime in Southern California? Contact our office today to schedule a complimentary consultation. Call (805) 208-1866 to speak directly with a knowledgeable member of our legal team.

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