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Cell phone recordings can be deemed as illegal?

Posted: , by John V.

Cell phone recordings can be deemed as illegal?
You’re walking down the street and find a group of police officers tackling an individual and witnessing that they may be too forceful in their actions. From a good distance, you decide to take out your cell phone and start recording the events unfolding before your eyes so that the extreme nature of the situation can be captured. Within moments of you recording, you are approached by another officer and find yourself being handcuffed – all before you can even upload the video to your YouTube account. You ask yourself “what am I being arrested for?” Unfortunately this type of encounter has been seen too often resulting in a good Samaritan or innocent bystander being whisked away because of illegal electronic surveillance.

Although the intention was to point out the excessive force among the officers with the aid of a cell phone, you may want to consider doing that because you can probably be arrested for it. Sounds a little far-fetched right – especially when you’re just out minding your own business and witness something you feel isn’t right. This actually happened to Simon Glik, who is a lawyer, when the incident took place in October 2007. Another similar event happened to Jon Sumacz who started recording with his cell phone when he thought Boston police officers were acting unnecessarily rough while breaking up a holiday party in December 2008. Regrettably there are no definitive statistics for video recording arrests, but Massachusetts’s misuse of wiretapping laws poses to be troubling. For the police officers defense, Boston police spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll say they can make an arrest “if an individual is inappropriately interfering with an arrest that could cause harm to an officer or another individual, an officer’s primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of the situation.”

In Massachusetts’s case, it is required for all parties involved in a conversation to agree on being recorded on a telephone or other audio device; otherwise the recording is deemed illegal. Basically you just can’t’ start recording anyone without both parties consenting to it. In Glik’s and Sumacz’s scenario, they recorded the officers without their consent – making the arrest justifiable; although they went through the court system to get the charges dismissed. It may be deemed as a little too excessive, especially when they don’t think they are doing anything wrong, but some critics say it’s almost unfathomable to consider it an illegal act. Again, wiretapping laws will vary for each state; so just be aware of the possible consequences if you’re placed in a similar position. In a technological age where videos can be recorded and uploaded in a heartbeat from a cell phone for the world to see, it may be considered a criminal act depending on the state laws.

source: The Boston Globe

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posted on 20 Oct 2010, 01:44

1. InstinctDemon (Posts: 74; Member since: 09 Nov 2009)


with that logic, all surveillance camera's would be on the highways, and stores can be considered illegal? If I don't consent being recorded? sounds good!

posted on 13 Jan 2010, 14:25

3. cjames (Posts: 2; Member since: 13 Jan 2010)


my thoughts exactly! Does this apply to public or private property? what if I'm innocent and doesn't want to give the cops consent to be on their dash cam. Can I sue the Police?

posted on 13 Jan 2010, 14:23

2. dandirk (unregistered)


lame... wiretapping is one thing... recording something happening on a public street is a whole other thing. What about camera's on cop cars... Do cops ask if they can tape an arrest? I am not saying they should have to ask but...

posted on 13 Jan 2010, 14:54

4. djroggen (Posts: 10; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)


I agree. How can taking a video of something unlawful, be illegal?

posted on 13 Jan 2010, 17:30

5. Illyich (Posts: 167; Member since: 13 Oct 2009)


Well, just to present another side of the story, government surveillance DOES differ significantly from videotaping someone without their consent. That being said, if you were able to capture a video of a mugger beating someone in the street and it led to his arrest but was thrown out of court because he never agreed to be videotaped, I'd be just as angry as anyone.

posted on 13 Jan 2010, 17:45

6. Mateo8326 (Posts: 472; Member since: 15 Jul 2009)


Isn't there a show called COPS with this same situation they talking about lol

posted on 13 Jan 2010, 18:43

7. vzwtechbill (Posts: 175; Member since: 16 Mar 2009)


So, those 4GB spy cam pens you can buy online for $25 that record 4 hours of video are illegal too? For that matter, unless you are video taping in the privacy of your home, you can't legally videotape your kids sporting event or recital unless you get the permission of everyone on the field/room....

posted on 13 Jan 2010, 23:43

8. mobilemike11 (Posts: 16; Member since: 09 Jan 2010)


recording video should not be illegal unless it is being done so without the consent on an individual where the public showing or sale of that video would either result in a profit to the one who is distributing it or if the content of that video was demeaning to the individuals in it. That's just not cool. As for youtube and similar sights, there is moderation and administrative controls which are used to determine what is appropriate for the public eye.

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