Federal Court Rules You Can Be Arrested Simply for Filming the Police

tabrizi-policeBy Derrick Broze

A federal appeals court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has ruled that filming the police without a specific challenge or criticism is not constitutionally protected.

The cases of Fields v. City of Philadelphia, and Geraci v. City of Philadelphia involve two different incidents where individuals were arrested for filming the police. Richard Fields, a Temple University student, was arrested after stopping to take a picture of a large group of police outside a house party. Amanda Geraci, a legal observer with CopWatch Berkeley, attended a large protest against fracking in September 2012 and was arrested while filming the arrest of another protester.


Both Fields and Geraci are seeking damages from the Philadelphia Police Department for violating their Constitutional right to videotape public officials. Previous rulings have found the public has a right to record police as form of “expressive conduct,” such as a protest or criticism, which is protected by the First Amendment.

The appeals court was specifically tasked with finding out whether or not the public has a First Amendment right to photograph and film police without a clear expression of criticism or challenge to police conduct.

The court wrote:

Fields’ and Geraci’s alleged ‘constitutionally protected conduct’ consists of observing and photographing, or making a record of, police activity in a public forum. Neither uttered any words to the effect he or she sought to take pictures to oppose police activity. Their particular behavior is only afforded First Amendment protection if we construe it as expressive conduct.

The court ultimately stated, “We find no basis to craft a new First Amendment right based solely on ‘observing and recording’ without expressive conduct.”

“Absent any authority from the Supreme Court or our Court of Appeals, we decline to create a new First Amendment right for citizens to photograph officers when they have no expressive purpose such as challenging police actions,” the decision concluded.

Eugene Volokh, a professor of law at UCLA, disagrees with the decision and says he believes it will eventually be overturned by the Third Circuit Court upon appeal.

“Whether one is physically speaking (to challenge or criticize the police or to praise them or to say something else) is relevant to whether one is engaged in expression,” Volokh wrote in the Washington Post. “But it’s not relevant to whether one is gathering information, and the First Amendment protects silent gathering of information (at least by recording in public) for possible future publication as much as it protects loud gathering of information.”

Whether or not the ruling is overturned, it should serve as a reminder to all free hearts and minds that the cost of liberty is eternal vigilance. We cannot become passive and allow the ruling class and despots in government to subvert our path towards liberation. Now more than ever we need communities to actively organize cop-watching and politician-watching campaigns that encourage accountability and transparency.  We must also remain strong in our sense of morality and principles, and not allow what is “legal” or “constitutional” to limit us in our fight for freedom.

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This article (Federal Court Rules You Can Be Arrested Simply for Filming the Police) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Derrick Broze and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11 pm Eastern/8 pm Pacific. Image credit: Peripitus. If you spot a typo, please email the error and name of the article at edits@theantimedia.org.

  • colinjames71

    “The Supreme Court ruled today that breathing in the vicinity of a police officer is now a legal cause for arrest, and while activists say this is a further attack on our liberties, the Justice Department put out a statement saying that if you STOP breathing in the vicinity of a police officer, they will respect your privacy and make no attempt to interfere with your right not to do so, under any circumstances.”

    -Future six o clock news brief

    • Troubleshooter

      Hey, when I was in the joint, I saw an inmate yoked up by the Goon Squad and taken to isolation because he “farted” in the presence of a female officer. Why would you think that Tyranny gives a crap where it treads?

      • colinjames71

        Holy crap that’s crazy

  • Paul Panza

    FTP

  • Bob

    Aren’t they looking at this backwards? We may not have an explicit right to film police as this was never a specific part of the first, or any other, amendment. But the police have no right to arrest or prevent someone from filming them while performing their jobs as public employees. The courts should not allow police officers who are abusing their position of authority to escape scrutiny. People should be explicitly allowed to film police officers without interference, as long as they pose no threat or get in the way of public safety. We cannot let the courts provide unwarranted and dangerous protection for any abuses or criminal actions by police.

  • govtflu

    Check your facts: Geraci was not arrested, Fields was cited for obstructing the highway. Filming police provides no inoculation from getting a ticket.

    • dale ruff

      Fields was detained, handcuffed, searched and issued a ticket for standing on the sidewalk, not the highway. ” Officer Sisca asked him to leave. Fields refused to leave “[b]ecause I felt that I was

      doing nothing wrong. I was perfectly acting within my rights just standing on the sidewalk,taking a picture of public property.” Fields “was about 15 feet away from any police officer.”

      Obviously, he was detained, searched, and handcuffed for taking pictures, since standing on a sidewalk is otherwise not obstructing a public passageway.

      Geraci was not arrested but she was physically restrained from photographing, tho she wore a pink identifier as a legal observer, whose clear expressive intent is to record any possible misbehavior. “Geraci claims Officer Brown
      “attacked her” by physically restraining her against a pillar and preventing her from videotaping the arrest. 19 Geraci recalls this as being her only physical interaction with the police despite having attended at least twenty (20) similar events.”

      In both cases, the police misbehaved, infringing on First Amendment Rights.
      Anyone who thinks that Fields was hancuffed and searched for obstructing the sidewalk, or that Geraci was legally pinned against a pillar on legal grounds, is an apologist for police state tactics.

  • Mike Silva

    B.A.L.O.N.E.Y. It’s all the same thing. I recorded while they beat the man up. vs I recorded them in anticipation that they would beat the man up due to past reputation.

  • Pamela Cohen

    The judicial crew that came up with this definition of lack of expression is pretty lame, or corrupt. They didn’t want the lawsuits to be successful, or a precedent set to regain accountability in any Govt. office.
    Non-verbal surveillance because of whatever fear of abuse of power or public keeping law enforcement accountable because of a legion of illegality and excessive force, or merely expressing interest in the process is a right not to be given up. Ever. Non-verbal expression is legitimate, regardless if the photographers were deaf and dumb. No one has to ‘say it right’ in the complaint. The act of photographing is expression.
    Bullying the people that support their jobs. Pretty stupid. Accountability! Freedom! Is that enough expression?
    P.S. Asking the American Public to trust Police cameras will operate and be released without doing the Hillary ‘dump and smile’ is a blatant Conflict of Interest request. It’s called Contempt of the very people that hire and trust you to do your job.
    Are they really requesting we be that ‘Unsophisticated’? Like the holograph images of planes hitting the Trade Centers which showed the side of the buildings through the plane wings? LOLOLOL, The ‘wrong’ engine left by a Govt. Terrorist employee/Bumbler that United Airlines doesn’t use, the stupid placed passport, or the piece of a plane not belonging to the alleged one running into the building. How disrespectful. Like Bush’s face. I’m waiting for the Military General to come back and clean house, because folks, we’ve been dismantled by liars and cheats like the stooges in this court.
    Meanwhile, take a listen to Pilot Leer and others (Youtube-before they sanitize it for ‘our own good’) who explain why the planes never hit the towers or the Pentagon, (impossible and 2 engines, not one hole and no plane parts left…)and how Russian intelligence has satellite proof that our own Terrorist Government created a False Flag to excuse their Oil/Banking hungry illegal invasion of foreign soil.
    Most people don’t have time to read or listen, and accept media fraud, read from supplied scripts. I am furious at the ignorance, cowardice, relentless crime and apathy. Who can actually stand to look at or listen to Bush, Clintons or Obama? How have they become our Leaders? Disgusting. Stand Up! If not for yourselves, do it for your children and grandchildren, and for the world that depends on the goodness in America.

    • eunsuh

      I would like to buy you a drink!

      Excellent. Its refreshing to hear someone who understands this world and is able to think there way through the load of BS.

      Hang’em all. I would relish nothing more.

      • Pamela Cohen

        In a world where the BS flies at phenomenal speeds, alcohol would only impede my judgment, where I either dodge or duck to later ponder it rationally, or just stop the aggravation and flat out not ‘do’ news. I’ll take something organic though, like a mocha. lol. Or, I make a rose syrup that when mixed with Trader Joe’s Honey Crisp Apple Cider, is out of this world good. Just saying. (Trying to let go of some of the 2016 frustration with comedic diversion…)
        Mr. Colinjames71-Thank you for the laugh. Filling jails is indeed just commerce in some locales. Here, a suspected shoplifter was chased by an off-duty police officer, and when the guy waved his knife to be let alone, he was shot dead. If we chased a burglar and shot him, we’d be in jail. I can only wonder even if something was stolen, if the life lost was worth much more. It seems that the militarization of police allows human life, including the mentally ill to be taken out like garbage. Maybe we should start asking to see the Policies and Protocols. This behavior has created a dangerous situation for citizens and police alike.
        Maybe I should just run for President and address the chaos. I survived raising 7 kids by myself, though barely. I’m used to people not liking me. Hmmmm

        • Rich

          You are liked. From one of your friends.

          • Pamela Cohen

            Life and relationships are so tenuous. Yes? Thank you for reaching out.

  • Let us hope that better legal minds prevail. The First Amendment protects many things without “declared intent”. Citizenship (your political status) is such a First Amendment right and no government or police activity can decide for you what your status is, anymore than they can decide for you whether you are a Democrat or Republican. I would therefore point out that the police can neither demand of nor decide for a photographer or videographer what their “intent” is, since, as an objective observer, one must witness or record police activity first in order to decide for themselves which opinion they might form based on the recorded activity. You can’t put the cart before the horse…

  • somitcw

    Did this also just outlaw all security cameras?

    • LadyAnne56

      That was my thought – what gives anyone the right to film me in a public area

      • Randje K Randje

        Rights are given of God. Only protected by the Constitution. Your body is protected, not your image. Get over it.

        • Taking care of business!

          Well replied. Ever heard of the paparazzi?

        • somitcw

          Erin Andrews might disagree that her image is not protected.
          Both legally captured and illegally captured.

      • Taking care of business!

        I suppose you’re in the witness-protection program. Therefore, we’ll be sure to facially redact any images of you. Wouldn’t wish the mob to get you. Like Randje K Randje aptly replied, “Get over it.”

  • AntiLieGuy

    That judge(s) of that court are treasonous criminals!
    The entire government are evil treasonous criminals. The day of the next false flag using the nuke they stole in 2007 and blamed on Iran, America will be destroyed by Russia, China and the SCO. This is the war of Armageddon and you can know it is now because of Planet X and the toxic chemtrails that hide it every day. Planet X will end the war when it rips the earth apart again but 90% of Americans will be dead already. All planned by your evil government.

  • Herbert Dorsey

    The filming of police misconduct should not be considered a crime. Tho police have a duty to obey the law as much as anyone else. From Rodney King to the present, filming police misconduct has acted as a deterrent to police misconduct and should be allowed.

  • Randje K Randje

    DO IT ANYWAY. REMEMBER THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT!

  • amabokcuf

    Revolution anyone???

  • Taking care of business!

    So when one records them beating or shooting someone to death–tough luck to the victim, better luck next time. But set yourself at ease, the police have recorded the event. Whoops. The camera was malfunctioning, better luck next time. Hitler would be proud. Sieg heil, mein Federal Court! Did I mention abusing, stealing, groping, etc.?

  • genesis667 .

    In case anyone hasn’t noticed the courts no longer fairly represent the citizens of America, they CONSTANTLY rule against freedom and towards any and all government tyranny~ They are all bought and paid for, it’s a big club and you ain’t in it, as the late George Carlin so correctly stated~

  • Ed

    Here’s your clear expression of criticism:
    The whole Good Cop / Bad Cop question can be disposed of much more decisively. We need not enumerate what proportion of cops appears to be good or listen to someone’s anecdote about his uncle Charlie, an allegedly good cop.
    We need only consider the following:
    A cop’s job is to enforce the laws, all of them;
    Many of the laws are manifestly unjust, and some are even cruel and wicked;
    Therefore every cop has to agree to act as an enforcer for laws that are manifestly unjust or even cruel and wicked.
    There are no good cops. – Robert Higgs

  • Paul Prichard

    Two things on this bulls**t.
    One, these rights are not created by government, they already existed and government is protecting them.
    Two, these rights are their own purpose.

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