Judge Ruling Limits When People Can Videotape Police Officers

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Alexa Santry Contributor
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A Philadelphia federal judge ruled that citizens are not permitted to take videos of police, except to “challenge police conduct,” The American Bar Association Journal reports.

U.S. District Judge Mark Kearney made his ruling after a college student was handcuffed and had his cellphone searched upon trying to film police officers standing outside a house party.

Richard Fields, the man who was handcuffed and searched, said he thought the picture of the policemen would be “interesting.” A woman named Amanda Geraci, who was physically restrained so she could not record a police arrest, accompanied Fields.

Both Fields and Geraci sued, alleging First and Fourth Amendment violations.

Kearney ruled that the incident was not a violation of the First Amendment.

“Applying this standard, we conclude Fields and Geraci cannot meet the burden of demonstrating their taking, or attempting to take, pictures with no further comments or conduct is ‘sufficiently imbued with elements of communication’ to be deemed expressive conduct,” Kearney wrote. “Neither Fields nor Geraci direct us to facts showing at the time they took or wanted to take pictures, they asserted anything to anyone. There is also no evidence any of the officers understood them as communicating any idea or message.”

While Fields and Geraci did not win their First Amendment allegations, Kearney did approve of the Fourth Amendment allegations.

“The citizens are not without remedy because once the police officer takes your phone, alters your technology, arrests you or applies excessive force, we proceed to trial on the Fourth Amendment claims,” the judge wrote.