Less than three months after a Florida deputy detained and handcuffed PINAC correspondent Jeff Gray for 45 minutes for fishing while open carrying a pistol – an act that is completely legal in Florida – then falsely telling him it was illegal to record him, Gray produced a video in the hopes of educating cops, lawyers and anybody else still confused about the law.
Florida is a two-party consent state, meaning you need the consent of both parties before recording.
However, this would not apply if the parties did not have an expectation of privacy, which clearly was the case when Gray was detained in July.
In fact, ever since the Draconian Illinois Eavesdropping Law was determined to be unconstitutional earlier this year, it is pretty much a given in all states that citizens can record public officials in public without getting arrested, which wasn’t the case a couple of years ago when cops were regularly using wiretapping and eavesdropping laws to arrest citizens who record them in public – not that any one of them resulted in convictions.
The only exception is in Massachusetts that makes it a crime to secretly record cops, a law that not even prosecutors have blindly followed.
The truth is, these laws are outdated, written decades ago, mainly applying to telephone conversations where one would have the assumption the conversation is not being recorded.
We live in a new era where most of us are carrying recording devices and many police departments are having their officers wear body-mounted cameras, which have more of a potential to invade a citizen’s privacy than the other way around as the ACLU pointed out in August:
Police officers enter people’s homes and encounter bystanders, suspects, and victims in a wide variety of sometimes stressful and extreme situations.
For the ACLU, the challenge of on-officer cameras is the tension between their potential to invade privacy and their strong benefit in promoting police accountability. Overall, we think they can be a win-win—but only if they are deployed within a framework of strong policies to ensure they protect the public without becoming yet another system for routine surveillance of the public, and maintain public confidence in the integrity of those privacy protections. Without such a framework, their accountability benefits would not exceed their privacy risks.
In producing this video, Gray to an article in a law enforcement newsletter written by an assistant state attorney from Florida last year where he clearly explained why citizens have every right to record police in public. The article begins on page 3.
He also visited the same assistant state attorney, George Wright, in his office, who further confirmed that police have no legal right to arrest citizens for recording them in public.
“He was kind of flattered that we visited him,” Gray said.
Gray filed a complaint against deputy Griffin of the Putnam County four weeks ago, but has not yet received a response, even though he followed it up with two subsequent emails.
Maybe we can all send Putnam Sheriff Jeff Hardy an email by clicking here to inquire what he intends to do about his deputy not only illegally detaining Gray, but lying to him about the state’s wiretapping law.
For more information about wiretapping/eavesdropping laws in your state, check out the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Digital Media Law Project and the National Conference of State Legislatures, which compiled a state-by-state guide of these laws.
It’s probably time to enact a federal law that guarantees the right to record public officials as part of the First Amendment to put a stop to the confusion and ignorance from police who have failed to keep up with the times.