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Is It Illegal to Film Police in Florida?

A man uses his smartphone to record a Florida police crime scene.

Clay County Criminal Defense Lawyers Explain Your Rights

Police interactions captured on video often serve as important pieces of evidence when fighting criminal charges, but a lot of people question whether using their phones to record the cops is even legal.

In Florida, the answer is complicated. The state has a statute that blurs the lines of legal and illegal recording. Meanwhile, politicians seek to change the standards. It died in committee earlier this month, but up until then, the Florida House was considering a bill that would criminalize bystanders who film or stand within 30 feet of police officers.

Recording the police FAQ

Do I have a right to record the police?

In general, yes. The First Amendment to the Constitution protects your right to monitor and gather information on public officials. This applies to the police. In Florida, for the most part, if you are in an open public space where other people can witness what is happening, you can record the police. State law defines this right.

How is my right to record affected by Florida law?

Whereas it is usually true that you can record police in public spaces, there are exceptions. Whether it's the local police or the Florida Highway Patrol, the Florida statute regarding "intentional interception" of oral, wire, and electronic communication applies. This means that recording the police (or anyone else) is prohibited unless the person/people being recorded have no reasonable expectation of privacy or all parties consent to being recorded.

Usually, police officers in public have no reasonable expectation of privacy. However, in Florida, there are situations where an officer can be in public and expect privacy. If that space is off the beaten path where it is reasonable to believe there is no one around to witness the interaction, it may not be legal to record.

How do I know when it's legal to record?

Whether or not you can legally record the police largely depends on the expectation of privacy. So, before recording, you should ask yourself two questions:

  • Can other people witness what is happening?
  • Has the officer(s) consented to be recorded?

If you can answer "yes" to one of these, then you can generally proceed to record with caution. An officer can order you to stop recording, however, if it legitimately interferes with their ability to work. You could also be ordered to stop recording if you are on private property. The owner can give and revoke permission to be on-site at any time. If the owner tells you to go and you do not, you risk being charged with trespassing.

If the answer to both questions is "no," the law is less clear. When recording Florida police and other law enforcement agencies, it is a good idea to take precautions.

What precautions should I take while filming Florida police?

When recording police in Florida, be upfront about what you're doing. Clearly asserting your right can help to protect it. If you decide to record police, it is a good idea to:

  • Clearly announce that you are recording what is going on.
  • Maintain a reasonable distance away from the action you are recording.
  • Do not interfere with police work. Never physically attempt to stop an officer.

Your freedom matters

At Aguilar & Sieron, P.A., our Clay County criminal defense attorneys understand how important your freedom is, which is why we take an aggressive approach when representing Floridians who have been charged with serious crimes.

If you are facing criminal charges in Northeastern Florida, don't gamble with your freedom. Let our attorneys handle your case and fight to achieve the best possible outcome. Contact us today to schedule a free case consultation.

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