A Michigan police officer was caught on video lying about his authority to confiscate a camera as evidence.
The Waterford police officer approached the citizen who was recording the aftermath of a police pursuit turned traffic collision involving serious injuries and said:
“You have two choices. You can either turn it off or I’m going to take it as evidence.”
When the citizen asserted his Constitutional right to continue video recording, the cop said, “You do have the Constitutional right to not videotape that.”
Police officers only have the legal authority to confiscate a camera under “exigent circumstances.” Otherwise, they must obtain a subpoena.
For example, a citizen who captures a murder on camera, then acts as if he is going to disappear with that evidence could be considered exigent circumstances. Even then, a police officer must make a sincere attempt in obtaining that footage without have to resort to outright confiscating it.
That obviously was not the case here. It’s most likely they did not want footage of the victim being published considering she ended up injured as a result of a police pursuit.
It is not clear from the video if she was the one they were pursuing or just somebody who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
This is how the videographer explains it in his Youtube description:
Waterford police officer was in pursuit of a Sport bike Motorcycle for speeding. I was driving by and saw the commotion and decided to check it out. Was told i couldn’t film. Also was told my Constitution don’t allow me to film and said he is allowed to take my camera. I am appalled by how the the bystanders acted like i was in the wrong for filming. What is the difference between them all standing there and me standing there filming and the news chopper flying over and filming hmmmmm? nothing! There were others recording with there phones and was told to shut em off by the Waterford Police from what i heard.
And here is an excerpt from the U.S. Department of Justice’s guidelines recently issued to the Baltimore Police Department:
Policies on individuals’ right to record and observe police should provide officers with clear guidance on the limited circumstances under which it may be permissible to seize recordings and recording devices. An officer’s response to an individual’s recording often implicates both the First and Fourth Amendment, so it’s particularly important that a general order is consistent with basic search and seizure principles. A general order should provide officers with guidance on how to lawfully seek an individual’s consent to review photographs or recordings and the types of circumstances that do—and do not—provide exigent circumstances to seize recording devices, the permissible length of such a seizure, and the prohibition against warrantless searches once a device has been seized. Moreover, this guidance must reflect the special protection afforded to First Amendment materials.
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CARLOS MILLER’S LEGAL DEFENSE FUND
I am immersed in a legal case where I not only want to clear my criminal charges stemming from my arrest in January, but I want to sue the Miami-Dade Police Department for deleting my footage, which I was able to recover.
My goal is to set some type of precedent to ensure this does not happen as often as it does today where cops simply get away with it.
So if you would like to contribute, please click on the “donate” button below and contribute whatever you can afford.
Also, in an unrelated PINAC matter, I recently went through a hair transplant operation and I’m documenting my recovery on this blog if you are interested. I did not pay for this transplant, which is why I’m promoting the doctor through the hair transplant blog.