Lara's 'Right to Record' Legislation Advances Out of Senate

April 13, 2015

SACRAMENTO, CA —Legislation to clarify California law when it comes to recording police officers cleared the Senate today by a vote of 31-3. Senate Bill 411 by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) reinforces the First Amendment and underscores recording protections for civilians and police.

“We are seeing the increasingly important role that recordings are playing in ensuring transparency, accountability and justice,” said Senator Ricardo Lara. “While states like Texas are attempting to make recording police illegal, here in California we are working with all interested parties to clarify state law to protect our First Amendment right.”

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.

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. Last week, a bystander caught a police officer in North Charleston, S.C. in a shooting incident that has led to charges being filed against that officer. 

“We know that many incidents of wrongdoing that have come to light are only because members of the public have recorded them,” added Senator Lara. “SB 411 is among the many bills that show California’s forward-looking approach to matters of public safety.”