In a trend that’s becoming way too common, another cop is wrongly using the illegal wiretapping charge against a man who filmed him against his wishes on a public road.
The latest report comes from Massachusetts where a cyclist named Eli Damon was stopped on March 20 for riding his bike in the middle of the road, something he had already been arrested for on a previous occasion as he explains on his blog.
Damon had a video camera strapped to his helmet, prompting the cop to accuse him of violating the law that forbids people from secretly recording someone’s voice without their consent.
The cop also confiscated his camera, which is an illegal act.
Massachusetts is a two-party consent state, which means it is a crime to secretly tape a conversation unless both parties have consented. The statute doesn’t specify whether this includes an audio recording of an individual who had no expectation of privacy as the Maryland statute states in the incident that occurred earlier this week.
But the Massachusetts statute does specifically state that the recording must have been done in secret, which was not the case here. Damon had the camera strapped to his helmet, which is why the cop noticed it. He also was filming 30 minutes prior to being pulled over, which obviously shows his intent was not to secretly record anybody.
The term “interception” means to secretly hear, secretly record, or aid another to secretly hear or secretly record the contents of any wire or oral communication through the use of any intercepting device by any person other than a person given prior authority by all parties to such communication; provided that it shall not constitute an interception for an investigative or law enforcement officer, as defined in this section, to record or transmit a wire or oral communication if the officer is a party to such communication or has been given prior authorization to record or transmit the communication by such a party and if recorded or transmitted in the course of an investigation of a designated offense as defined herein.
Furthermore, a Massachusetts judge threw a similar case out of court a couple of years ago when a Boston man was arrested on illegal wiretapping charges for videotaping cops against their wishes.
The judge in that case, Mark H. Summerville, ruled that videotaping police in public was comparable to photography and therefore protected under the First Amendment.
Damon was also charged with disorderly conduct, which we all know is a typical contempt-of-cop charge when police can’t find an actual law to cite.
Illegal wiretapping laws were created to deal with people recording telephone conversations, not people videotaping others in public.
For a breakdown on each state’s law, check out this guide produced by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.