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Mass. Court Says Constitution Protects Filming On-Duty Police 473

Posted by timothy
from the good-setting-for-the-scene dept.
Even in a country and a world where copyright can be claimed as an excuse to prevent you from taking a photo of a giant sculpture in a public, tax-paid park, and openly recording visiting police on your own property can be construed as illegal wiretapping, it sometimes seems like the overreach of officialdom against people taking photos or shooting video knows no bounds. It's a special concern now that seemingly everyone over the age of 10 is carrying a camera that can take decent stills and HD video. It's refreshing, therefore, to read that a Federal Appeals Court has found unconstitutional the arrest of a Massachusetts lawyer who used his phone to video-record an arrest on the Boston Common. (Here's the ruling itself, as a PDF.) From the linked article, provided by reader schwit1: "In its ruling, which lets Simon Glik continue his lawsuit, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston said the wiretapping statute under which Glik was arrested and the seizure of his phone violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights."
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Mass. Court Says Constitution Protects Filming On-Duty Police

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  • and so they learn (Score:5, Insightful)

    by X0563511 (793323) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @05:07PM (#37236350) Homepage Journal

    The police just learned an important lesson: Don't charge lawyers with the stupid rules you use to get away with shit.

  • by hedwards (940851) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @05:12PM (#37236384)

    More or less, the legal system in the US has gotten to the point where you really need to be a lawyer in order to understand when you're breaking the law.

  • by Freddybear (1805256) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @05:18PM (#37236418)

    That's what we get for electing so many lawyers to write the laws.

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @05:27PM (#37236478) Homepage

    Will likely have a different opinion. To them the constitution only applies to corporations.

  • by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @05:32PM (#37236512)
    So, when is the arresting officer going to be charged with violating the civil rights of the videographer? Don't police make some sort of oath to uphold the law, and this ruling makes it clear that the officer violated the law, thus breaking their oath, shouldn't that get them fired as well?

    The real issue here is "government violates the law with impunity and nobody cares."
  • by steelfood (895457) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @05:35PM (#37236538)

    Not to understand when you're breaking the law, but when you're not breaking the law. And more importantly, it requires a lawyer to get out from any repercussions. Because while we laymen may not be breaking the law and know it, they can still harass us and make our lives difficult. And the only ones who are even remotely capable of defending themselves from that kind of behavior are lawyers. And even then, it still takes an ungodly amount of time, effort, and expenses.

  • by saihung (19097) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @05:40PM (#37236564)

    This isn't a Massachusetts court. This is a federal court that actually knows what the 1st Amendment is, and more importantly thinks that it matters. The Supreme Judicial Court, which is the Massachusetts high court, has had its chance to look at this law more than once, and has come to the wrong conclusion every time. It took a federal court to realize what any moron should know - that prohibiting citizens from recording public officials doing their jobs on a public street is an invitation to abuse.

  • by shentino (1139071) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @05:53PM (#37236652)

    Especially since actions taking place in public do not have participants with a reasonable expectation of privacy.

    It is one of the meanings of the word "public".

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @05:53PM (#37236662)
    You have no right to "be heard" and such a "right" means destroying other people's freedoms. The right to refuse to support something is just as much of a right as it is to support something. For example, if you disagree with the Ku Klux Klan's message, you don't have to support them, you don't have to give to them financially, etc. On the other hand, if there was a right "to be heard" it would mean that everyone would have to pay money to support the KKK's message, otherwise it would infringe on their rights. What we (should) have now is a better balance, the KKK is free to say what they want, people are free to support them if they wish, but you don't have to listen to them if you don't want to and you certainly don't have to financially support them.
  • Re:Great News! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ohnocitizen (1951674) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @05:57PM (#37236692)

    It's not due process but realistically it needs to be done.

    Citation Needed.

    Frankly a single instance of a cop using either illegal coercion or force on a citizen who is only suspected of a crime is an unwelcome sight in a country that aspires to rule of law and liberty.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday August 28, 2011 @05:59PM (#37236698) Journal

    That's not true! You can also be very very rich and get justice as well! Everyone else is royally fucked though. I used to live down the street from the county courthouse and used to sit in and watch the proceedings but frankly it got too depressing. the ones that finally broke this camel's back was when a rich guy walked in, it was his NINTH bust for under the influence of booze AND drugs, and his FIFTH hit and run! What did he get? they gave him a $10k fine and actually THANKED him for his fucking time! The next one was a poor guy for his second pot possession charge. they gave him 3 years.

    Anyone who thinks the courts in the USA aren't as crooked as any third world really ought to set in on some trials for a couple of weeks. there they will quickly see a pattern, rich can do anything, poor go to prison for less than a tenth of what the rich guy does. it is like that old saying, steal $500 go to jail, steal 500 million become a senator. The thing is so tilted now in favor of the elite it isn't even a bad joke anymore, it is just pathetic and sad.

  • by Chris Tucker (302549) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @06:08PM (#37236756) Homepage

    "Taxation is legalized theft, no more, no less."

    Say the person who benefits from the city fire department, police department, highway department, health department that enforces sanitation and public health regulations, the water and sewer, departments that provide safe water and take away sewage, the diverse Federal departments that ensure clean safe food, safe medicines, keep aircraft from colliding in mid air, will carry a letter from coast to coast for you in a few days for less than half a dollar, etc etc etc.

    Don't bother to quote Ayn Rand or any other libertarian bullshitter at me. The ONLY quotation that matters is this:

    Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.: 'I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.'

  • by blair1q (305137) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @06:20PM (#37236812) Journal

    Why would the DA punish one of his own thugs?

    DA's are elected. Cops aren't.

  • by canajin56 (660655) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @06:35PM (#37236900)
    If there's one thing I've learned from watching 10,000 cop procedurals, it's that if the DA dares charge even en ex-cop with anything, all the other cops will "lose" evidence resulting in a 0% conviction rate, and then he won't get reelected because he'll seem incompetent. Somehow the cops don't get reprimanded for losing evidence and botching investigations and contaminating evidence. Also somehow DA's threaten to not press charges as a way to punish cops for not towing the line, so I guess the absurd "We'll let criminals go and that'll make YOU look bad but not us!" threat can be used both ways? Or maybe TV doesn't reflect reality all that much? WHO KNOWS.
  • by Lakitu (136170) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @06:40PM (#37236938)

    This judge is most assuredly off in "la-de-da-liberal-land". You should probably readjust your perspective on reality to accomodate for that fact. Thanks in advance!

  • Re:Missed one... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sique (173459) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @07:13PM (#37237132) Homepage

    You don't lose your rights by being a pain in the ass. The legitimacy of her case is untouched by her being a loud protester of all trades.

  • by SecurityGuy (217807) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @07:34PM (#37237276)

    Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.: 'I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.'

    Cute, but fallacious. SOME taxes buy civilization. Some are simply squandered. Some buy oppression, including of those who pay the taxes. Some buy wars we didn't need. There's also a lack of causality. If a building falls on you tomorrow, we still have civilization. Something like 50% of USians don't pay taxes (ok, federal income) and yet we still have way more government than many of us want. Those of you who don't think that are, in my not so humble opinion, just ignorant of how the sausage is made. It also assumes paying taxes is the only way to get civilization, or the best. It makes as much sense as "I like amputations. With them I remove splinters from my fingertips." or "I like chemotherapy. With it I slow or stop cancer." In both cases the end is great, but if there's a way to do it with fewer or no amputations, less or no chemotherapy, or lower or no taxes, that's obviously much better.

    The no-nonsense version of this quote would be "I like civilization, and I accept some taxation as the price we have to pay for it."

  • by causality (777677) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @07:38PM (#37237302)

    Randroids [skitch.com] with mod points. As inevitable as death and taxes.

    To answer the objection to that sig about taxes... taxation is done by force or threat of force. If you don't pay your taxes, armed men will come to take your assets eventually. If you resist these armed men, they will use force up to and including lethal force. We call them IRS agents or we call them police. In any other context this is known as robbery. The fact that the theft is legal and the proceeds taken by theft are often put to beneficial uses that serve a commn good does not change the fact that it is theft. You might steal your neighbor's TV, sell it, and donate 100% of the money to charity; you'd still be a thief. It's really that simple. We continue to use this model mostly because we have not yet implemented one that is more viable, not because it is inherently virtuous.

    Ayn Rand's writings were the greatest gift ever ... not to those whose political views tend towards the maximization of liberty and the minimization of coercion and hierarchy ... but paradoxically she is most useful to those who want to dismiss such views. Think the burden of proof is on the person who recommends coercion by force or threat of force (otherwise known as police power)? Well you're just another Randbot, and we'll call you names like that to avoid explaining why we think our position is superior.

    I hate to break it to you but what is now called (small-l) libertarian thought has been around for a long time. The Founding Fathers with their distrust of government, love of liberty, and general view of government as a necessary evil have this kind of philosophy. Also, Rand was a staunch materialist; there are lovers of freedom such as myself who reject a materialist view. I also have the non-Randian belief that logic is a tool, it's a stunningly versatile tool, yet like all tools there are situations where it does not apply. But no, we're all just mindless droids and labeling us as such lets you remain safely within the boundaries of your comfort zone where your own view never needs to be tested against other incompatible ideas.

    After all, anyone who feels a need to name-call, pigeonhole, label, marginalize, and smugly dismiss other views is only demonstrating their personal security and the correctness of their own position. Right? People like me who cultivate an openness to new ideas and a willingness to entertain notions with which we disagree prior to dismissing them, well obviously we have no idea what we're doing. One day we'll learn. One day.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @08:10PM (#37237510)
    And the only reason the internet was created by the government is because it was simply the only organization with enough computers to create the internet.
  • Re:Great News! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fjandr (66656) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @08:26PM (#37237600) Homepage Journal

    Absolutely, 100% I would prefer them dead to abusing due process.

  • by tragedy (27079) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @08:32PM (#37237646)

    Private companies which are currently doing their best to unmake the Internet and turn it into an AOL redux.

  • Re:Great News! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Maestro4k (707634) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @08:34PM (#37237664) Journal

    If criminals--real hardened criminals who would blast a hole in your liberal head for your wallet--knew that cops were totally bound to the rules, there'd be a lot more crime out there. It's reality, sorry to say.

    Like the threat of violence stops them? They go out there no knowing they could get the death penalty and yet still do the crimes. The "real hardened criminals" are sociopaths and will not stop doing their crimes just because they may be beaten/shot/killed. Using them as a justification for police violence is akin to using the threat of terrorism to take away our civil liberties.

  • Re:Great News! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cgenman (325138) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @09:35PM (#37237988) Homepage

    There have been a couple of cases of the internets picking up on a police officer making a wrong call that was an understandable mistake (such as a plain-clothed off duty officer pulling a gun on a motorcyclist). But by far what show up are genuine abuses: officers ruthlessly beating compliant suspects while surveillance cam operators intentionally look the other way. Unarmed men lying on the floor in a prone position getting shot in the back. Rodney King, which reflected the abusive police interactions in LA at the time. Or even this interpretation of this law itself, where your only protection against abuses is considered illegal on a BS technicality. And these show up in the destruction of evidence (collecting cell phones) and denial of evidence (the surveillance camera footage).

    Personally, I think we do give officers a lot of moderated attitude. A friend had a gun pulled on him at a (15 mph) speeding stop by a trainee officer. The elder officer overseeing her pulled her aside, taught her proper procedure, and let my friend off with a non-documented warning. It was a completely non-procedure way of dealing with an officer drawing her gun without provocation, but it was handled well. I had a gun drawn on me for having a broken white plastic Halloween samurai sword as a teenager. But the professionalism of the officer never made me feel in danger.

    A lot of these officers are not used to being on the internet. They're not used to the level of abuse where if 10,000 people are calling for the immediate dismemberment of you and your family, you're doing fine. Someone makes a flash video of you beating down dancing flower children, it pretty much goes with the territory. Unfortunately, most people don't have a thick enough skin for the internet, and it is sad that this may be their first exposure (except the beating down of the dancing flower children cop. That guy deserved it.)

    95% of the officers I've interacted with have been professional, helpful (or at least trying to be), and safety-conscious. But some are abusive when they think they can get away with it, and the only protection we have is documentation. The moment we lose the right to document our interactions with the police, is the moment the police go from helpful to a threat. And that puts everyone, civillians and police, at risk.

  • by micheas (231635) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @09:38PM (#37238012) Homepage Journal

    The SCOTUS does have a member that is effectively being bribed. Clarance Thomas

    His defense is that he would be as rabidly pro corporate if his wife was not receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from people with issues before him.

    Scalia and Kagan also have some questionable income sources, but not as egregious as Thomas.

    Replacing Thomas with someone like Judge Bork [wikipedia.org] might not change the decisions of the court much, but would greatly reduce the appearance of corruption.

    But, the perception of the US Congress being bought and paid for might be reduced more by increasing the number of members of the House of Representatives to much closer to the constitutional limit of no more than one representative per 30,000 people (excluding native amercians) [wikipedia.org]. The current number of 435 representatives is arbitrary and fixed to maximize the power of individual representatives. would reduce the need for legislative aides, reduce campaign expenses and allow people to run for congress by knocking on their neighbors doors.

    So, yes, America has a veneer of legitimacy over our government, but if you think the average American has more say over his/her government than the average African, you might be unpleasantly surprised.

  • Re:Great News! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by demonlapin (527802) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @10:48PM (#37238306) Homepage Journal

    such as a plain-clothed off duty officer pulling a gun on a motorcyclist

    I'm going to assume you're talking about the motorist in Maryland. What was the "understandable mistake" that justified pulling a gun? You never point a gun at anything you don't intend to shoot. I've pointed a gun at one human being in my life - a guy wearing a ski mask in 55 degree F (13 C for you across the pond) weather who was at my back gate and trying to get in.

  • Re:Missed one... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by demonlapin (527802) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @10:56PM (#37238332) Homepage Journal

    good cops often choose to cover up for bad cops. Why, I'm not sure

    I am not generally a fan of cops. However, they do a difficult and occasionally dangerous job (though it's a lot less dangerous than many would have you believe). When they send out the call for "officer needs assistance", they don't want to end up like Russell Crowe's character in American Gangster with "no officers available to help".

  • Re:Great News! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by znerk (1162519) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @11:08PM (#37238392)

    Dead cops and dead marines is your preference, coward?

    Honestly? I think there's more than enough cops. Way too many, if you ask me.

    Think about it for a minute. How many "law enforcement" agencies have jurisdiction over you where you sit right now? "Just a few", you might think... Let's count, then, shall we?

    We'll assume, for the sake of argument, that you live inside a major city. We will also only count the offices that can legally break into your house with "probable cause", and maintain staff trained and equipped for exactly that.

    1: City Police
    2: County Police (Sheriff)
    3: State Police
    4: Federal Marshals
    5: FBI

    Nothing surprising so far, right?

    6: Border Patrol (in a surprising large number of places that aren't actually near a "border")
    7: Department of Homeland Security
    8: Drug Enforcement Agency
    9: Internal Revenue Service (yes, they maintain personnel for "active" law enforcement duties)
    10: Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
    11: Public School District Police Department ("Resource" Officers - yes, they are real police, and yes, they can break into your house to arrest you)
    12: Local College Police Department (see above)
    13: Highway Patrol (admittedly a bit of a stretch, but there are several circumstances where it is perfectly legal and within their jurisdiction to "assist" in a raid or otherwise break into your home)

    So in this list, there are twelve agencies (thirteen if you want to count "edge cases") that, without a doubt, are capable of breaking into your home to arrest you. These are just the ones that have jurisdiction and authority to break into your private residence, regardless of its location within the United States, to "detain" you. There are also plenty of localized "special task forces" that can be granted "the duties and privileges of rank pertaining to" law enforcement officers, if they don't already have them, for the special purpose of terrorizing^W protecting citizens. Shiny badges and guns seem to make lots and lots of people more than a little power-mad.

    To make it worse, there are agencies such as the New London, Connecticut Police Department, who require their officers to be unintelligent in order to make them more likely to follow orders without thinking, and "less likely to get bored".

    Youtube is full of normal, law-abiding folks who have been killed or seriously injured by those charged to protect and serve, with little or no provocation. One of my favorite clips is a Boston Area Rapid Transit Officer shooting a man in the back while he is face down on the ground in handcuffs. A favorite headline of mine is the man who died falling from a second story ledge after being tazed by law enforcement officers. Another of my favorite stories is the school resource officer who tazed a fourteen-year-old girl who wasn't even being threatening, she just wasn't doing exactly what she was told quite quickly enough.

    There's plenty of reason for ordinary, average, law-abiding citizens to hate and fear law enforcement officers. We get new ones every day. How much fear, uncertainty, and doubt can this institution resist?

    I, for one, applaud "dead cops and dead marines" when they overstep their bounds while applying deadly force. Enforcing the law does not place one above it.

    Also, I wonder how long it will be before the surveillance society we live in is "good enough" that an audio/video record of any given subject will be available for anything and everything that person has done in the past [24 hours|7 days|30 days|ever in their life]... more importantly, is that a bad thing? Could we do away with [some|most|all] of the law enforcement [officers|agencies] at that point?

    As for being a coward... well, say it to my face.
    (Yes, the irony is implicit, and the internet is full of tough guys).

    --
    I may sound paranoid, but is it paranoia if they really are out to get you?

  • by rts008 (812749) on Sunday August 28, 2011 @11:51PM (#37238550) Journal

    ...punish cops for not towing the line,...

    They have to pull barges now?

    By the context of your comment, I suspect you meant toeing the line.

    Or maybe TV doesn't reflect reality all that much?

    That may be the understatement of the decade.

    Don't 'educate' yourself via TV, it will FUBAR your mind.

  • Re:Missed one... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Monday August 29, 2011 @05:47AM (#37239630)

    If you cry wolf enough times

    Perhaps she wasn't lying but was merely acting upon causes that she found worthy. Just because you disagree with some of her actions doesn't mean that she was lying.

Just because he's dead is no reason to lay off work.

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