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Video Recording People in California

If you watch the news these days, you will see video clips shot on cell phones. It’s not unusual for these clips to focus on police and their interaction with the public. There is a growing trend among private citizens to film the police in an ultimate effort to keep them honest.

When it comes to capturing a person’s actions on video, you need to do so in a way that won’t land you in jail.

Taping Private Citizens

When it comes to recording a single person or a group of people, air on the side of caution and get everyone’s consent. This is especially important if there is any chance that the conversations you record may be confidential or private. If you do not gain consent, don’t tape.

Under California law, you could be setting yourself up for a civil lawsuit and criminal prosecution. Taping confidential or private conversations violates the state’s wiretapping law. The law requires two-party consent. In other words, you must gain the consent of anyone involved in the conversation. If one person gives you the go ahead and one person says no, the answer is no.

Public Meetings

Any public meeting held in California is recordable. You can video-tape any public meeting that you wish. There is, however, an exception. If you will be obstructing or otherwise disrupting the meeting by recording it, you may not do so.

Recording the Police

In California, the answer is “yes.” You can record the cops, but you can only do so while they are actively performing their duties. In other words, you can’t follow a cop home and record him mowing the lawn. If you want to record a police officer on duty, feel free to do so. Actually, you can tape any public servant, but you can only do it when they are on the job.

Even though it is legal to record the police, you better not do so in a way that interferes with their duties or you could be charged with a crime. If you want to record, stay at a safe distance from the action. Across the street is usually a good idea. Don’t shout obscenities, don’t offer your opinion, and don’t get in the way.

Cell phones are a wonderful invention and most of us use them in our daily lives. If you choose to use your cell phone as a video recorder, make sure that you are following the law. You don’t need to get yourself in trouble that you can’t afford to get out of.

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Stephen Levine, is a Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Defense — an honor achieved by only the top criminal law attorneys in California. Mr. Levine has over 40 years of experience in criminal defense and family law serving Southern California, and is a highly regarded Super Lawyer as well as AV Rated attorney.