The Right to Film Police Officers in California

In the state of California, you are allowed to record police while on duty, but there are a few restrictions. The first general rule of recording the police is to do so as openly as possible. If you try to do so by concealing your camera, you may be violating California Penal Code Section 647.

This law states that any person who uses a concealed camcorder to secretly videotape or record another person without their consent is committing a crime. As long as the audio or video recording is being done in a public place and you are not trying to hide it, you are within your “First Amendment” rights.

Even if you are recording an officer of the law in plain sight, they might feel the need to confront you. If confronted, just explain that you are asserting your “First Amendment rights”. Make sure you are not interfering with police duties and you are giving the officer space to work.

It is important to note that the state’s “anti-paparazzi” legislation. This makes photographing or recording anybody on private property a crime. If you are going to document police activity with your camera phone or other recording device, make sure you are doing it in a public area.

Consequences of Secretly Recording a Police Officer

Under California Penal Code Section 647, audio recording or videotaping a police officer with a concealed camera is a misdemeanor. If found guilty, you could face up to one year in county jail and fines of up to $1,000.

When you need help, call the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Solution Law APC

Ultimately, you should not be convicted of a crime for recording a police officer if it is done in a public and open setting. However, some police officers might unfairly arrest you for other more general offenses. If you are facing any allegations after exercising your First Amendment right to record a police officer, it is important that you seek help from an experienced and knowledgeable attorney. The attorneys at Solution Law APC have been successfully defending our clients accused of crimes for over 40 years.

With offices located in Orange County, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, and San Diego Counties. 

Solution Law APC
(844) 839-9838  |

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  1. Can I film interaction with police in the police stations in calif.? The cops kicked in my door without a warrant when I was sleeping. Came in my bed room, woke me up and arrested me. The DA.’s dropped charges in the interest of justice 7 months later. The police had on body cam video’s. The arresting police refuse to give me full police report and body cam video cop’s telling me it is evidence, even though the charges have been dropped. I file a complaint for the video and report. Says on complaint they will contact me in 30 days. Never heard back on complaint. Want make YouTube video following up on complaint and police report. Arrest was on 6-5-2020.

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