Do you have a legal right to record the police?

Record the Police

Do you have a legal right to record the police? The simple answer is yes, and in certain situations, you should! Now more than ever we have the ability to keep law enforcement accountable by directly exposing any police misconduct. However, there are some circumstances that you need to be aware of to avoid any criminal charges against you.  

North Carolina’s Stance on Recording in General 

North Carolina gives broad guidelines in terms of when and where it is okay to record others. In essence, if it is in a public space, where privacy is not expected, such as a park or sidewalks, then you are clear to hit the record button. However, if it is in private, such as changing rooms or restrooms, where privacy is expected, then you are likely breaking the law by recording.  

Additionally, North Carolina is a “one-party consent” state, which essentially means that so long as someone that is a party to the interaction consents to you recording, you are good to go. Look out though, you cannot secretly record an interaction that you are not involved with. You need express consent.

So What About the Police? 

These rights do not disappear just because one of the actors is law enforcement. With all of the regulations behind dash cam and body cam these days, you should record whenever you can! You are only helping to establish your defense. This can be tricky though in situations where you are the subject of the investigation, so you want to read on for some tips.  

What should I record?  

Everything, but make sure you follow these guidelines:  

  • Bring it to the attention of the officer. Do not try to hide your phone while recording. This can become dangerous if the assumption is made that you are hiding some sort of weapon.  
  • In a calm and polite manner, request the name and badge number of any and all officers involved. This can help later in court proceedings.
  • Make sure that your presence is not interfering with any investigation taking place. For instance, if your car is being searched, do not follow closely behind the officer while they are searching – this can be considered an interference.
  • Do not let your recording cause you to physically resist the officer if they are trying to detain you. So, if they are handcuffing you, you can keep recording audio, but do not try to insist on no handcuffs for the sake of recording.  

But the Police Officer Said I Have to Stop Filming?  

One thing that you should expect is that the officer will likely be irritated by you recording, whether you are the subject of the investigation or if you’re simply a bystander bearing witness to a person’s encounter with law enforcement. An officer will try to intimidate you by indicating that you cannot record. Remind them of your rights and continue to record. Just follow the steps above. The most important thing is to remain calm and polite. Any escalation in your tone or actions can be read as an interference to the investigation and used against you.  

Watch out though, police may be sneaky and say that you are interfering with the investigation, which could lead to your arrest for Resisting a Public Officer under N.C.G.S 14-223. The best way to avoid this is to just step back. You can zoom in with your camera and capture as much footage as possible.  

Let the sunshine in! 

In an era where encountering law enforcement can be a scary prospect for many, especially people of color, due to the headline news across the country, remember that you have rights! It’s important to hold law enforcement accountable for how they comport themselves during interactions with the public. It doesn’t matter whether someone was breaking the law or not…police must act lawfully. Recording interactions with police can provide greater visibility and clarity into the situation, and hopefully, will save lives by keeping EVERYONE on their best behavior. 

If you need an attorney to assist you with your criminal charges, the experienced trial lawyers of Granados Law Group, PLLC are ready to fight for you! Call 919.650.2851 for a FREE initial consultation.   

Contact Us Today!

Let us know how we can help you by contacting us today for a free consultation. Call (919) 650-2851 or fill out the form below to get in touch.

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