Increased awareness about civil rights and police misconduct and the widespread availability of personal recording devices have collectively put a spotlight on the behavior of police officers across the country. In most states, it’s legal for citizens to record the actions of on-duty police officers. Florida is one of twelve states which requires the consent of all parties being recorded to permit the recording of events; however, the state does not consider an on-duty officer as one of the parties that must consent to recording.
If you’ve been stopped for DUI, you or a passenger riding in your vehicle might consider taping the interaction with the officer to preserve evidence of the events that transpired during the stop. On paper, it’s legal to record on-duty police officers in Florida. In reality, it’s not always easy nor feasible to do so.
Florida Audio Recording Laws
Florida is known as a “two party consent state” meaning that, to lawfully record audio, the person doing the recording must have the consent of the person they’re videotaping or recording. A person who does not receive consent from the parties being recorded commits a third-degree felony under Florida statute 934.03; however, Florida law does not provide that on-duty police officers have an expectation of privacy.
The Leeanna Presson Case
In 2013, Tampa resident Leeanna Presson recorded an interaction between her husband and the police officers who were arresting him for DUI. Believing that they were being too rough with him, she pulled out her cell phone to record the arrest. It didn’t take long for the police arresting her husband to place her under arrest for obstructing an officer without violence, even though she was nearly 30 feet away from the officers.
Ultimately, her lawyers argued that her First Amendment rights had been violated and that she had faced excessive force when police officers threw her against a fence. Although her case never went to court, the city did settle a claim for $41,500.
Will Police Give Me a Hard Time for Recording Them?
Under Florida law, an on-duty law enforcement officer does not have an expectation of privacy. The courts have ruled that the person recording a DUI stop may legally do so as long as he or she does not interfere with the officer’s legal duty. Unfortunately, the fact that it is legal to record police does not make it an action they will tolerate. Police officers may harass citizens in an attempt to get them to stop recording. They may detain you, take away your recording device, and — if they feel you’ve gone too far — they may arrest you for any of the following offenses:
- Obstructing justice
- Disorderly conduct
- Violating wiretapping laws
Police officers are not always aware of the law. A police officer who is unhappy about being recorded might try to stop you from doing so, either by taking your phone or arresting you. You have every right to defend yourself in court.
Hiring a DUI Defense Lawyer in West Palm Beach
Many police officers have not adjusted to the times in which we live, when so many people have a camera capable of recording events on them at all times. Not very long ago, this was unheard of. Today, the widespread availability of smartphones has impacted the way law enforcement officers interact with the people they must protect and serve.
Tensions have risen between law enforcement officers and the general public that may make it more likely you could be arrested for attempting to record a DUI stop. If you have been arrested for DUI or for interfering with an officer’s duty, former prosecutor Brian Gabriel with The Law Office of Gabriel & Gabriel will stand up for your rights.
Attorney Brian Gabriel has more than 25 years of experience providing a comprehensive criminal defense to those accused of a crime in West Palm Beach and surrounding areas. He provides close personal attention that is vital to the success of each case. Contact our firm for a free consultation by calling 561-622-5575 or completing our contact form.