Witness Videos on the Rise
Across the country, arrests such as these highlight the growing role of witness video in law enforcement. A dozen states require all parties to consent before a recording is made if there is a “reasonable expectation of privacy.” Virginia and New York require one-party consent. Only in Massachusetts and Illinois is it illegal for people to make an audio recording of people without their consent.
“The argument is, “Well, can a police officer beside the highway have a private conversation with somebody that they pull over?” said Joseph Cassilly, the Harford County prosecutor handling Graber’s case.
Cassilly added, “Suppose a police officer pulled you over and he wanted to have a talk with you. “Sir, I smell alcohol on your breath. Can you talk to me about how much you’ve had to drink? Would you want somebody else to stop by and record that and put it on the Internet?”
Rocah of the ACLU disagreed. “It’s not that recording any conversation is illegal without consent. It’s that recording a private conversation is illegal without consent,” he said. “So then the question is, “Are the words of a police officer spoken on duty, in uniform, in public a ‘private conversation.’ And every court that has ever considered that question has said that they are not.”
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