Posted By : Alisha Wood | Date : 06-01-2016
Did you know: until August 2015, any video recording of an officer during an arrest or traffic stop could be confiscated and destroyed on the spot?
It’s true. Before last year, there was no official legislation protecting the rights of citizens who document incidences involving officers with photos or video footage. In light of the controversy in the past few years involving blurred lines of legality regarding the treatment of citizens by officers and vice versa, it has been a priority of the senate to create clear boundaries and ensure that clear evidence is not at risk of destruction.
A Quick History Lesson
Prior to the passing of this important California legislation, the protected party was law enforcement. There have always been laws that allow an officer to confiscate video footage if it is obstructing him or her from completing duties. However, because there has never been any legislation protecting the citizen documenting the scene, the precise definition of ‘obstruction’ has been basically left to the interpretation of the officer. Many pieces of evidence have been lost that could have potentially protected the citizen being charged and/or the officer involved.
Details of SB 411
Approved August 11, 2015, Senate Bill 411 restates legal protection of a public officer, peace officer or emergency technician who is met with resistance. Any citizen who causes obstruction or delays to these professionals will face imprisonment and/or fines. Most of the space on this bill is spent outlining the ways a civilian may be a distraction and penalties for specific actions. However, the final section of bill finally expands regarding the protection of the civilian.
If a civilian is not obstructing the duties of an officer or EMT, he or she has the right to take a photograph of the scene or create an audio or video recording. The clause specifically states:
“(g) The fact that a person takes a photograph or makes an audio or video recording of a public officer or peace officer, while the officer is in a public place or the person taking the photograph or making the recording is in a place he or she has the right to be, does not constitute, in and of itself, a violation of subdivision (a), nor does it constitute reasonable suspicion to detain the person or probable cause to arrest the person.”
Senate Bill No. 411
Decriminalizing the documentation of arrests, traffic stops or other public incidences involving law enforcement is so important in protecting the rights of both civilians and officers, allowing the justice system to see clear evidence of a situation rather than leaving heavy decisions to speculation and debate.
Why This Matters to You
When there is video evidence in a case, it may work in your favor or against you. Of course, it is a very important right to be able to record footage of an arrest; however, this type of clear evidence affects the way a case is assessed and fought. It is always important, if you are involved in a criminal case, to seek legal representation to help you attain the best results. If you are not sure of your rights, find the help of a team who can confidently fight for you. Call the Law Offices of Alisha A. Wood today to speak to an attorney who cares about your future: (619) 356-2249.