Bill would clarify individuals’ and police’s First Amendment right to record in public places
SACRAMENTO, CA —Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) today announced legislation to clarify that recording public safety officers in the course of their duties does not constitute an obstruction of an officer. Senate Bill 411 reinforces the First Amendment and underscores recording protections for civilians and police.
“Our Constitution guarantees us all the fundamental right to freedom of speech,” said Senator Lara. “Recent events throughout the country and here in California have raised questions about when an individual can – and can’t – record. SB 411 will help erase ambiguity, enhance transparency and ensure that freedom of speech is protected for both civilians and police officers.”
SB 411 would clarify individuals’ First Amendment right to record police officers by clarifying that a civilian recording while an officer is in a public place, or the person recording is in a place he or she has the right to be, is not violating the law. Additionally, it makes clear that recording does not constitute reasonable suspicion to detain a person or probable cause to arrest. This bill also protects police by ensuring that these provisions do not allow a civilian to obstruct an officer.
“The First Amendment plainly allows the filming of public officers in public places as long as the filming is done peaceably and without actually interfering with the officers,” said Larry Doyle, Legislative Representative for the Conference of California Bar Associations. “Recordings of law enforcement activity benefit victims and innocent police officers by creating clear evidentiary accounts of what took place. SB 411 also will result in fewer lawsuits and fewer payouts of taxpayer money because of both the evidence it will provide and the responsibility it will inspire.”
In California and beyond, members of the public have been arrested while recording or photographing police activity in public places. News accounts and videos have surfaced showing that some civilians have been arrested for recording officers in the cities of Los Angeles, Torrance, and San Diego, as well as the County of Orange. This conflict extends past police officers and civilians to professional photographers and media personnel. In Berkeley, CA a journalist was arrested after recording law enforcement officers in a public place.
"The California Attorneys for Criminal Justice is committed to protecting the public's rights when they are legally recording the actions of law enforcement. Preservation of this right is a key strategy of accountability and no one should fear prosecution for exercising this right,” said Ignacio Hernandez, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice’s Policy Director.