Ground-Breaking Victory For the Common Man: First Circuit Court Rules Videotaping Cops Is Protected By First Amendment

by | Sep 2, 2011 | Headline News | 82 comments

Do you LOVE America?


    Whip out those cell phones and video cameras – we have great news!

    It’s official, and the message to public servants is clear – Americans’ right to video record police while they are executing their duties in a public venue fits comfortably within first amendment activity:

    Hear ye, hear ye!!

    The First Circuit Court of Appeals–the highest federal court for New England just below the U.S. Supreme Court–last Friday handed down a ground-breaking decision defending our right to videotape the police and other public officials as they engage in their official duties…

    On Friday, the First Circuit agreed. In a decision that reads like an ode to the First Amendment as key to both liberty and democracy, the court wrote:

    “The filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities, fits comfortably within these principles [of protected First Amendment activity]. Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting the free discussion of governmental affairs.”

    “Basic First Amendment principles, along with case law from this and other circuits, answer that question unambiguously in the affirmative.”

    The Court further stated that such protections should have been clear to the police all along, noting that the right to videotape police carrying out their duties in a public forum is “fundamental and virtually self-evident”

    “The public’s right of access to information is coextensive with that of the press.”

    “Moreover, changes in technology and society have made the lines between private citizen and journalist exceedingly difficult to draw,” the Court continued. “The proliferation of electronic devices with video-recording capability means that many of our images of current events come from bystanders with a ready cell phone or digital camera rather than a traditional film crew, and news stories are now just as likely to be broken by a blogger at her computer as a reporter at a major newspaper. Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.”


    It’s possible that the case, or a case of a similar nature, will make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court eventually, but we are hard pressed to find a legitimate argument to the contrary, and thus believe that the Supreme Court would uphold the decision of the lower First Circuit Court of Appeals.

    Of course, public officials, namely those who are themselves breaking the law and violating the rights of others, will continue to attempt to intimidate the general public – but only for a bit longer. Take, for example, the case of Michael Allison, who faces life in prison on multiple counts of wiretapping in Illinois for recording law enforcement officers in public. The Illinois Attorney General continues, at least as of this writing, to pursue the case after Allison refused a plea bargain that would have left him with no jail time. Allison rebelliously responded to the plea offer by saying, “if we don’t fight for our freedoms here at home we’re all going to lose them.”

    The First Circuit Court’s decision would override any decision by a State judge, as it falls under the umbrella of the US Constitution, so we have no doubt Allison’s charges will be dropped, or simply overruled by a Federal court if it comes to that.

    Once it becomes broadly known that this decision has set a ground breaking precedent and that there can be no criminal liability, Americans all over the country will undoubtedly begin documenting law enforcement activity and making that documentation available on the internet for all to see.

    An open society, and one that is legally protected from the threat of intimidation and unwarranted arrest for simply making a record of police activity, is a freer society and this recent decision from the First Circuit Court of Appeals helps to ensure that freedom.

    This is true transparency in government, an example which should be carried on to the U.S. Congress, where it would be in the best interests of the people to have cameras and microphones in any and all meetings where legislation or negotiation is taking place.


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      1. Sounds good but can see both sides of this. On the plus, no “old boy network” of small-town cops interpreting the law as they see fit. On the minus, more Rodney King-like incidents where videotapers (and viewers) see surface actions and don’t know the whole story. As for recording Congressional meetings, a most resounding YES!

        • Great points WVA Folks! You should police like you are being watched/taped in the first place. I’ve been policing since 1994 and I have no issues with being recorded as long as you stay out of the way.

        • Rodney King was a career criminal, known to be violent in the commission of his crimes and had a moderately lengthy record. The incident which sparked the riots happened after he failed to pull his vehicle over and a high-speed chase ensued.

          Now, the cops (understandably frustrated) shouldn’t have beaten him, but the PC crowd likes to make Rodney King seem like an innocent victim. Just like the 4 kids who were shot trying to rob Bernhard Goetz, most of King’s crimes actually occurred after the incident.

          • PC or not, Every person on American Soil has the right of equal justice and protection under the law! Official oppression and abuse of powers no matter the circumstance is a clear violation under the law, not to mention considered cruel and unusual punishment. I believe in the laws of this great nation and believe NO ONE is above said laws!

            In our present day society, we seem to forget this! Whether or not we agree with the current circumstance, Casey Anthony, the law and the Constitution gives us these rights, NO MATTER WHAT! No matter what public opinion says or thinks, every person who steps onto American soil is ENTITLED to these rights! If we falter, our Constitution is weakened! And every time we push the edges of the Constitution, it frays just a little.
            I live in a city and state where police have done things to its citizens that break that bond between the law and the Constitution and we see it every day from our elected officials in this country. Whether it is a Congressman refusing to allow cameras in his Town-Hall Meeting or a candidate having his security team pound a citizen who opposes his opinion, it is wrong, NO MATTER WHAT!

        • I want to comment on all. What does it say about a country, when a man breaks into a house, the owner of said house, defends himself and property by shooting the robber and the robber turns around and sues the person he’s robbing, wins and the homeowner loses the house and is left homeless from the lawsuit. What I would do, is shoot to kill! This was in the news several years ago. I’m just curious as to what the opinion of other readers are. Thanks.

      2. I tell my friends all the time that we live in historic times, and the end state will be liberty. It won’t be easy or comfortable, but looking back from 2020, we’ll be able to see what Hunter S. Thompson described as the high water mark of our accomplishments. In this case Constitutional Populism leading to restoration of Republic. I’m cautiously optimistic, whilst we prepare for the worst..

        Can’t wait until the Indiana Supreme Court’s decision to allow entry to homes without warrants makes it to the federal courts.

        • “Can’t wait until the Indiana Supreme Court’s decision to allow entry to homes without warrants makes it to the federal courts.”

          I am personally hoping that the case that makes it to the US Supreme Court involves a homeowner who puts several very large holes in the forehead of a jackbooted thug who broke down his door and threatened his life and the life of his family without just cause.

          • Don’t you get the impression from watching these thugs invade homes, break doors -never mind they don’t have a warrant, nor do they give a damn- and beat up its dwellers, or shoot them 61 times, and then callously say their concern is getting paid ‘for the job’, that these animals are either war criminals, tagged felons, foreigners, psychos, and even drug users? Can you conceive say, your dad, bro, cousin, acting like a beast with a badge and a gun? Would YOU seek and cheer such ‘job’? AK-47’s still are best reception gadgets for all kinds of asses at our front -or rear- door.

      3. Now all we have to do is get the police in our local areas to stop violating federal law! Also we all need to spread the word of all constitutional rights. First and foremost, the 1st, 2nd and 4th amendments.

        • Have you not paid attention to the bigger picture, we value the 1st, but if you open you mind and think outside the box, this gives them a foot hold to monitor the average citizen too, it works both ways

          Why does the dog wag its tail?
          Because the dog is smarter than the tail.
          If the tail were smarter, it would wag the dog.

          • Pardon me if I misunderstand but are they not already monitoring us ?I really dont see this giving the police more power to take pictures than they already do…if anything we the people have more rights and protections in constitutional law than the police do…this ruling doesnt mention the people being subject to the ruling just that the police do not have a right to stop us if done in a non interfering manner…just saying.

          • Private citizens are, so far anyway, not in the same category as government officials in the line of duty. Hence, telescreens are not yet legal, but in public, the idea of privacy is purely delusional.

      4. How about that!! This will make the PTB/W very upset.
        About time! James

      5. well duh, and if anyone was going to fold up for this abuse of power than they would deserve to lose that right, get with it people ..we dont neeed them to tell us what our rights are..thats what were supposed to be telling them!

        • Right…this decision is only to inform corp officials they can be videotaped.

        • Not true! Your rights are clearly written and interpreted! If you believe that it is your rights are being infringed upon, try shooting someone without cause. YOU DON’T HAVE THAT RIGHT! Many need it explained to them. Especially is they do not read the Constitution and only repeat what they hear from others. Their information is distorted! It is the responsibility of each of us to learn and understand the Constitution and our individual rights and privileges. WE cannot interpret the Constitution to meet our current situation, it is a clear document and must be interpreted equally for each one of us. But it errs on the side of the citizen.

      6. Way to go, Michael Allison!

        Finally, a court decision that actually supports freedom and responsibility in government instead of chipping away at it!

      7. Finally a step in the “right” direction.

      8. Guns can have a video camera attached now. Good idea unless u r a criminal though.

        • Ok, but pointing a gun at a public employee isn’t a first amendment issue it’s a life or death one.

          I wonder who appointed the court members in this case?

          • I was talking about a pointing it at future Zombies to protect yourself legally. I lacked clarification on this one.

        • IF you make a “mistake”, you can always erase the video…

      9. That`s the way it should be. Congrats for those ppl.
        Best wishes !

      10. Until a higher court steps in and decides that the under the table payment he/she just recieved, was enough to overturn the decision, it happens all the time. the whole system is corrupt

        • The only “higher court” is the U.S. Supreme Court…and these days, who knows what they’ll decide!!

          • I lost all respect for the U.S. Supreme Court way back in 1972 (warning: rant ahead). Roe vs. Wade opened the floodgates to out-of-wedlock pregnancy, promiscuous behavior and a gross lack of self-control in general. The highest (and one-time most respected) court in America is tipping us farther over the edge of the chasm where godlessness and immorality hold sway. We have no children, but I AM concerned about my young nieces. Sister and her husband solid people and preppers 🙂 but the world is becoming a scary place. Pray that TSHTF later rather than sooner. That’s all.

            • Roe v Wade CAUSED those things? That is the most ignorant thing I have read on here in a very long time. *shakes head.*

            • No Anonymous, RvW did not CAUSE those things, just condoned them and made them more acceptable to society in general.

              People used to THINK about their relationships and, in the off chance when they lead to pregnancy, there was strong incentive for both families to push for marriage.

              Divorce increased sharply in the ’70 after the hippies of the sixties grew up another decade and realized they didn’t have the adult mindset that should’ve developed in their teens and twenties.

          • They will decide in favor of corporate policy.

        • The system is not corrupt. Only individuals within the system!

      11. Hooray! Another step in the right direction of closing down an ever growing “police state” in our great country!

        • I hope you are right 🙁

          Why does the dog wag its tail?
          Because the dog is smarter than the tail.
          If the tail were smarter, it would wag the dog.

      12. Technology is a two edge sword. They track and listen to you and you video and record them. As recording devices get smaller and more hidden the authorities will not be able to stop it. The rubber meets the road in the courts.

      13. Do you want to know why we should be allowed to film cops carrying out their official duties? (Maybe it should be all public officials) Go here to see what recently happened in New Mexico:

        Obviously this wasn’t taken by an individual, but a security camers. And the latest news out of New Mexico is that this cop won’t be fired!!!!!!!!!!!

        • silver bean: Here a true story for ya. The sheriffs dept. i worked for had a certain deputy that had another deputies wife, who got drunk at a local bar around 1am on the hood of his car, he was in uniform and on duty, guess what they were doing? Some how a complaint was filed and the deputy was fired for official misconduct. It gets better, the Captain of the Police dept. went with th dept. to a hearing with f.d.l.e. to speak on his behalf, so he would not lose his certification, he didnt, came back and started working for the police dept. A year and a half later i was in a college training class for radar certification (traffic), myself working for another agency, and who do you think walks into class, you got it, the very same deputy who was fired along with the deputy whos wife he had been, ugh, SEEING! Amazing he had gotten his job back with the sheriffs office. Funny thing, this individual was terminated for official misconduct, not alone adultry which is a misdemeanor in Florida and on the books, but gets his job back. I on the other hand had no misconduct, and had been let go because i told the Sherriff who has been voted at out, that i thought he was an #$%hole, and that he only cared about politics, not his Deputies. So much for free speech, and those FREEMASON BASTARDS WHO ARE RUNNING LAW ENFORCEMENT. True story! Yeah i know should have keep my mouth shut, but that not the type of man i am!


      14. Can we say wag the dog…. All I see is the Admin giving us a little leverage in which they can make other moves. Hooray for our 1st but they give us a little to appease the populous all the while they make there moves else where…watch out and watch them, this is not over by a long shot for them they are hidding something

        Why does the dog wag its tail?
        Because the dog is smarter than the tail.
        If the tail were smarter, it would wag the dog.

      15. wiretapping laws were written to prevent someone from being secretly recorded and then having that evidence used against them in a court of law. in order for the cops to record you without your knowledge they must get a warrent so that evidence can be used.

        video taping a cop in public and then shaming them on Youtube with it is perfectly legal.

        • See your point. We know some really GOOD local policemen who aren’t in the “network” who truly care about their families and community and take their jobs seriously.

        • That was true until the Patriot Act was signed into law!

      16. amen to this decision, it is about time a court actually is agreeing with something in the constitution. if we are to survive we must get this country back on track with constitutional law, and immediately start clearing the books of the 1000s of laws that trample our constitutional freedoms, this is america not germany or russia or china, we are proud americans and we need to all join in one voice to get these criminal officials who thought they could sneek in at night and steal our country. we are awakening america, stand up without fear, and i will say GOD BLESS!!! or whatever you believe in. remember God, Honor, country, family. your house cannot be in order if cant figure this out. without the first three you cannot have the fourth.

      17. Max, how to forward you an email about Florida sheriff dept. and Homeland Security???

      18. Max…Florida sheriff dept. orders sort of knocks this victory out of the ballpark.

      19. where can we get this news about fl sheriff?

      20. Heck, this is common sense–as a teacher in the 80’s, we all knew every word in that classroom could be heard through the intercom systems–you are an actress the entire day–on camera so to speak—what’s standard monitoring of each teacher must be even more so for the LEO.

      21. My email contact says she’s from Florida…well…here’s the explanation about news stations and it’s not verified…but, crap, this is really scary just after this circuit court’s dedision about privacy, responsibility, and accountability, huh..

        ~~~~~~~~This week they contacted all of the News Channels in Jacksonville and told them they must turn in all of their Police Scanners. They were told the Department of Homeland Defense has ordered this. Even though this article at the bottom of the page does not mention Homeland Defense, my local news talk radio station, AM 690, did report that the order came down from them.~~~~~~~~~

      22. Film an arrest from a reasonable distance, so as not to cause legitimate concern about the safety of the officers during the arrest. “Legitimate Concern”. Think before you reply. This should be good.

      23. Some here agree and some do not. Just like burning the flag they have a right and regardless of our feelings that is what freedom is all about. Does it piss me off seeing ole glory being burned? You bet your sweet arse it does, I am an ole retired military guy. But I swore to defend our country and constitution.

        Remember we won a victory this day, but be prepared for more losses. They will not go down without a fight to take more and more of our rights away. See you all on the high ground!

      24. It always has been. If vide taping cops was illegal then the guys who beat Rodney King were illegally jailed. This just reafirms that it is legal to videotape cops and other officials. Where people will get in trouble is when they are ‘videotaping’ an incident but are then deemed to be interfering with the investigation.
        Stepping in the way of the officers to get ‘a better shot’. Stepping in front of an elected official to prevent him from walking in order to answer your questions with a video recorder in his face. Walking into their faces screaming ‘I have the right to videotape you’.

        If the cop is doing nothing wrong, he won’t care if you videotape him. It is as easy as that. If he is screwing up, he may try and intimidate you into turning it off or giving him the tape.

        Don’t do it.

        Most veterans will always have a press video area for all high profile incidents, and the validated press usually abides by the rules. When they don’t, they get their press pass revoked and are no longer granted access to the crime scenes.

        The bottom line is, film away but don’t interfere. Most level headed people have no problem with this. Some people want to make a statement and their own video usually gets them in trouble. Use common sense and have fun with it. If something is wrong, use your video to exonerate someone. But remember, video works both ways and if you are breaking a law or ignoring a decease order at a large gathering, that video will also prove your guilt.

        Good luck all, and happy videotaping.


      25. Should also hold true for the courtroom, lest the judge care to admit it is a private venue rather than a public place.

        Interesting turn of events, but the Supreme Court is so corrupted it will probably be overturned.

      26. The way I see it…

        I’m happy about the victory… YAY!

        I guess they decided to throw us a bone so we’d shut up.

      27. Ok so this decision has its good points and not so good. From what I can tell it only protects recording police in a public place. That may not include your home and your property and certainly won’t include a police station. There have been a number of cases of arrest for recording police in a private home and on private property. A recent case also comes to mind where a woman recorded police in an interrogation room as they illegally intimidated her to keep her from making a criminal complaint against one of the officers present who sexually assaulted her. In my estimation this only gets us half way there. My hope would be that an individual’s right to record police activity in any venue they have legal access to would be affirmed (their home, their property included.) It would also be fair to have your own recording of your own interrogation.

      28. Just like in the days of Roosevelt, the Courts remain the last bastion in the defense of freedom.. sometimes they get it wrong, but thank God, they also get it right.
        This time they got it right and it was a bigun.

      29. why do we need the courts to remind our professional police that there is a first amendment?

        • Because they were educated in government schools, where the Constitution is barely taught, and when it is, only on the most superficial level, and even then, only in the senior year of high school. It’s as if to say, “Oh yeah, before you head out into the world, there’s one little thing we forgot to mention all these 12 years of forced learning: there’s an old, crumbly piece of paper y’all ought to know exists, just in case someone asks you…”

      30. Statisticly, 60% of all arrests are physically resisted by the suspect. If the police become overly concerned about using reasonable force to effect an arrest, because of cameras, where does that leave crime victims? I now of police officers who refuse to get to a crime scene until the offender is gone, for just this reason. They don’t want to get sued everyday by some loser looking to hit the courtroom lotto.

        • A lot of those charged with resisting arrest are only guilty of verbally telling the cop no, don’t arrest me. That is just a way to add another charge, which unless it is caught on camera, is usually unprovable; but also can’t be defended since the Police enjoy favored testimony status. I’ve never had a personal problem with a cop; but I know people who have been charged with resisting when they did not physically resist.

          • None compliance with instructions is also considered resisting. There is no time to debate the arrest on the street, only in the court when you have a lawyer on your side. Remember, when the officer says your under arrest, he’s not asking you for your opinion. Do what he says and get a lawyer.

            • If I understand your opinion, then, our inalienable right to free speech ends the moment a law enforcement officer tells us we’re under arrest? I think otherwise. Physical resistance is one thing; telling an officer that you disagree with their assessment of the situation for which you are being arrested falls well within first amendment rights IMO. Insecure and/or corrupt officers should remember their mothers’ old saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”.

        • Resisting arrest today can be for just arguing with law enforcement and shruging your shoulders. Law enforcement today has become para military in nature and under the guise of National Security, they flush our Constitutional rights down the tubes and get away with it.

      31. Oh good. Didn’t really want to change my name to Leni Rieffenstahl.

      32. Freedom & Liberty 1
        Communistic/Government Control 0

      33. The fact that this case even got to the 1st Circuit is frightening in itself and demonstrates the level of tyranny that the government has sunk to. I wonder if this extends to recording TSA goons as they ply their nefarious trade?

        • unfortunately, I think this is one of the brst comments yet….. sigh

      34. THE PEOPLE do not need a Supreme Court to Declare OUR RIGHTS. In Common Law, THE PEOPLE DECLARE THEIR RIGHTS! By the way, WE MAKE OUR OWN LAWS TOO. SSSHH.

      35. This is a refreshing step in the right direction! I especially like how the opinion explicitly levels the playing field between common person and “Press” official. Government officials will have a harder time denying access to “public” meetings where they’ve been routinely admitting only people with “Press” credentials until now.

        Next we need to address the travesty of “Free speech zones” as they have been used to thwart our inalienable right to peaceably assemble. The entire geographical area within the borders of the USA is a “Free Speech Zone”. To have protesters corralled three blocks away from the (public) venue of their discontent is a violation of their first amendment rights. I hope someone with standing takes that issue up through the courts soon.

        • So, now we’re getting into the rights of those protesters at military funerals?? It does get tricky and a bit sticky with the displays of those credents with no proper education in manners and respect.

          Yep–they have the right to do what they do, but as Sandy speech zones in America??

      36. Sandy, you misunderstand me. You may voice your disagreement, but only as you’re submitting to the arrest. You’re not entitled to refuse to be arrested while you voice your displeasure. Remember, you have a right to remain silent. Most of the time that’s a great idea. Remember also, the police camera and audio is running, if you put your foot in your mouth, you can bet that tape won’t get lost before court.

        • You are certainly technically correct; but I have seen and also know people who offered ZERO resistance, only voiced verbal displeasure and not agressively or rudely. They were charged with resisting arrest. A lot of times, that charge is the only one that they can actually get to stick; since it is primarly the arresting officers opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I like cops and have family members who are cops; but the facts are what they are.

        • Yep..the miranda Warning say..(its no longer called Miranda “Rights”)

          You have the right to remain silent, anything you say CAN and WILL be used AGAINST where does it state may be used on your Behalf or for your good..only AGAINST you.

          it also goes on to pull you into the corp.

          The person in custody must, prior to interrogation, be clearly informed that he or she has the right to remain silent, and that anything the person says will be used against that person in court; the person must be clearly informed that he or she has the right to consult with an attorney and to have that attorney present during questioning, and that, if he or she is indigent, an attorney will be provided at no cost to represent her or him.

          this is typically how an arresting officer of the corp will mirandise you
          You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?

          • now hand over your wallet and savings account

            ‘ cause were broke

      37. I can see it now. You yell at the cop “I’m innocent, and for a fat cop, you don’t sweat much”, and he let’s you go. Not.

      38. I really liked that last line:

        Such developments make clear why the news-gathering protections of the First Amendment cannot turn on professional credentials or status.”


      39. Most cops already have cameras in their cars Lets talk about how many arrests R made without any Police bruteality& weigh them against police complaints.WE would not need any cameras if the unlawful people wouldn’t break the law.I am not in law enforcement but I say. Let the cops do their job saying always If U commit the crime then you should pay the fine or serve the time

      40. Thank you Michael Allison. Home of the brave.

      41. So, even part of the ruling class found police overreaching a bit hard to take. Will wonders never cease?

        I’ll be impressed when some cop finds himself in jail for violating this first amendment right. Until then, the advancement we are talking about is more theoretical than real.

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