Colorado Criminal Law – Can I Video – Take Pictures Of The Police?
Colorado Criminal Law – Can I Video – Take Pictures Of The Police? – In recent years, there have been countless cases of police officers ordering people to turn off their cameras, confiscating phones, and, like Reilly, arresting those who attempt to capture footage of them. Despite a common misconception, it’s actually perfectly legal to film police officers on the job.
The First Amendment Protects Your Right to Video Tape or Snap Stills of the Police in Public
Not only is this true – it goes to the very heart of the laws of our country… holding those in government responsible for their actions. The police despise this procedure because of their fear of accountability – but their interference by taking your camera or blocking your attempts to record – is censorship and also violates your First Amendment rights.
There exists NO LAW in this country – that can stop you from recording the police in public – on the street – in a park – ANYWHERE where the public is generally allowed.
BUT – What About State Wiretapping Laws?
The states vary on whether they allow recording “private” – not “public” conversations without the consent of one or more parties. These “wiretapping” laws do NOT apply to the public – open – recordings addressed above.
If you hold out your camera – in public – for all to see – this is enough to put the subject on notice that they are being photographed or recorded. They can do nothing about it LEGALLY. Practically – however there is another story to be told.
Police Do Not Always Know Or Understand The Law Due To Poor Training
Many of those in law enforcement – still think they can stop you from recording their actions. This ignorance is usually a lack of training. Police are used to issuing orders and being obeyed . They actually believe that when they issue an order – it is the equivalent of a lawful order – and – it usually it is! But they cannot lawfully order you to stop doing something you can legally do.
Colorado has many different laws that prohibit a person from physically obstructing or interfering with police officers when they are performing their duties. When a citizen films or photographs a police officer – if it is a safe distance from the “action” – that is NOT interference.
The Practical Realties Of The World Of Law Enforcement
Having a right and having that right recognized on the street are two different things. While you may have a legal right to record the conduct of the police without their consent – remember this – the police often find a way to get even. That might mean making up a false allegation, such as arresting you under the Colorado wiretapping law, or find some other “kitchen sink” charge such as – disturbing the peace, obstruction of justice, or trespassing to charge you with. Then – during the arrest – your recording equipment is accidentally damaged or destroyed along with the recording. Be aware of what can happen when you are in this situation.
Wiretapping – Federal Law and Other Non – Colorado States
Federal law permits the recording of phone calls and other electronic communications such as photography with the consent of at least one party – this is the One Party Rule. .
Most of the other states follow federal law with some exceptions. 38 states and DC allow individuals to record conversations in which they are a party (the one party rule) without the need or the requirement of informing other parties that a recording is occurring.
On the other hand 12 states require the consent of all parties to a conversation (California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington). While some call these states “two-party rule” states – the reality is that ALL persons present must consent to the taping in these states.
The Basic Rule to remember is this – it will ALWAYS be illegal to record a conversation to which you are not a party.
What About Taking Photos or Video?
24 states, including Colorado, outlaw certain uses of “hidden cameras” in private places. These laws address invasion of privacy issues and target illegal attempts to record nudity.
Remember that video is most often accompanied by audio and that the audio component implicates the wiretapping laws described above.
Colorado’s Wiretapping Laws – Secretly Taping A Conversation You Are Not A Party To – Is A Crime – One Party Consent Statute With Exceptions
The Basic Rule In Colorado – Unless you are involved or at least present during a conversation – you must have the consent of at least “one party” to a conversation to legally record either an oral or electronic communication.
“Intercepting in-person conversations” – If you intercept a communication between parties as described – you maybe convicted of a misdemeanor. But if you disclose the information gained through these means – you may be guilty of a felony under Colorado’s wiretapping law.
In-person conversations: At least one participant to a conversation is required before any recording can take place under the state’s eavesdropping law. CRS 18-9-304.
Journalist Exception – News media are exempted from Colorado’s eavesdropping and wiretapping statutes if the taping occurs “in the course of reporting or investigating a public and newsworthy event.” CRS 18-9-305.
Electronic Communications – Wiretapping – Under CRS 18-9-303 at least one party must consent to the taping of a telephone conversation. This applies to wireless communications and any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature, consent likewise is required to disclose the contents of text or e-mail messages sent between wireless devices. CRS. 18-9-301.
Hidden Cameras: – Colorado prohibits anyone from knowingly observing or taking any visual images of another person’s body without consent in situations where the subject of the filming or photography has a reasonable expectation of privacy. These are the so called “Peeping Tom” laws CRS 18-7-801.
Any person who knowingly observes or takes a photograph of another person’s intimate parts without that person’s consent, and in a situation where the person photographed has a reasonable expectation of privacy, commits criminal invasion of privacy. A “photograph” is defined as and includes a photograph, motion picture, videotape, live feed, print, negative, slide, or other mechanically, electronically, digitally, or chemically reproduced visual material (CRS 18-7-801).
The Possible Punishments – Criminal Penalties: Violations of the state’s wiretapping statute are both felonies punishable by a fine of between $1,000 and $100,000 and one year to 18 months in jail. CRS 18-1.3-401.
However, recording communication from a cordless telephone is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and six to 18 months in jail. CRS 18-1.3-501.
While eavesdropping carries similar penalties, if you violate Colorado’s hidden camera law – it is a sex crimes and you will face misdemeanor charges carrying a sentence of up to one year in jail and fines up to $1,000. CRS 18-9-304.
If You Disclose The Recordings To Others – This aspect of illegal wiretapping is a felony, if there is reason to know the information was obtained illegally. CRS 18-9-304. For YOUR state laws on this subject – follow this LINK …
Colorado Criminal Law – Can I Video – Take Pictures Of The Police?
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