Can you film the police while they are pulling you over in Washington?

Posted by Keith Hall | Apr 26, 2017 | 0 Comments

As a criminal defense lawyer, I often times have clients that wish they had filmed their interactions with the police.  

Many police agencies do not have in-car or body mounted cameras or audio recording equipment, and when there is no recording, it is possible that there will be differences in what people remember or perceive happened.  On the other hand, a recording can make it perfectly clear what happened.  

I have had cases dismissed or won at trial because of a recording.  I have also had clients who were shocked to see how they behaved in a recording.  The recording may not have been perfectly filmed or recorded, but it is at least unbiased.

Recently an interesting interaction between an Uber driver and a police officer in North Carolina made the news.  It was interesting in two regards, one was that the Uber driver was told that he could not fim his public interactions with the police while pulled over, and two that the Uber driver was a criminal defense lawyer moonlighting as an Uber driver.

Video of the interaction can be seen here linked in a Washington Post article about what occurred.

The officer was wrong and later the police agencies involved issued the following statement:

Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous issued a statement in a news release, stating:

“Taking photographs and videos of people that are in plain sight, including the police, is your legal right. As a matter of fact we invite citizens to do so when they believe it is necessary. We believe that public videos help to protect the police as well as our citizens and provide critical information during police and citizen interaction.”

A statement was also issued by New Hanover Sheriff McMahon. According to the sheriff's office, McMahon has reviewed the Uber driver's video and “believes it is clear that officers were incorrect in stating that it was illegal to record the encounter.”

In Washington state anyone can film the police while they are doing their job in public.  This means that drivers can film them while being pulled over, or those on the scene can film them as well.  

Police officers will sometimes try to intimidate those that are filming, threatening them with arrest for vague statutes like obstruction or interfering with their investigation.  It is possible that they will do this, and your recourse would be to sue the law enforcement agency for making a false arrest or depriving you of your civil rights. 

About the Author

Keith Hall

Keith Hall Criminal Defense Attorney Keith loves representing and fighting hard for his clients.  His clients are often people who have never been in trouble before, but now find themselves in the gun sights of the government's prosecution machine.  Often times these clients...


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