Friday, August 27, 2010

Videotape a Cop and Risk Going to Jail

One of the most memorable videos involving police was the infamous Rodney King beating. It was caught on tape by a casual observer and showed the world the extent to which some officers of the law overstepped boundaries. It was one of the first times such a flagrant human rights violation had been caught on video.

Today, the person who made that video would likely be arrested and prosecuted. Yes, prosecuted for videotaping public servants who wear badges and carry guns. In Maryland, state police are using state wiretap laws to prosecute a motorcyclist who posted a video of an Maryland State trooper making a traffic stop with his gun drawn.

On March 5, 2010, Anthony Graber was riding his motorcycle when he was confronted by a plainclothes Maryland State trooper as he came to a stop at an exit. Graber, who had a video camera mounted on his helmet, recorded the event in which he was given a ticket for speeding. A few days later, he posted the encounter on YouTube. According to a press release fromy the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, the trooper obtained an arrest warrant charging Graber with a violation of the state wiretap law. State police seized his computers and video camera. Graber, who is married and the father of two children, is also a staff sergeant in the Maryland Air National Guard, and a computer systems engineer. If convicted, he faces up to 16 years in prison.

Carlos Miller, a journalist who runs the blog "Photography Is Not a Crime," has been arrested twice for the same offense and has followed similar arrests over the past few years. This past July, South Florida model Tasha Ford was arrested on felony wiretapping charges after she videotaped cops arresting her son. In Oregon, Hao Vang was arrested two years ago for videoing police beating his friend. Even after a $19,000 settlement, Beaverton Police Chief Geoff Spalding says that his department will continue to make these types of arrests.

Is this the new world order? It strikes me as odd that wire tap laws would be used in such a manner given that police themselves have cameras mounted on their dashboards in their vehicles that do the same thing. These practices, if allowed to continue, are an abuse of power, a form of intimidation and a violation of one's First Amendment rights


Chez Cerise said...

I was under the impression that one can not expect a right to privacy (meaning not being video taped or captured on camera) in a public setting.

T.C. said...

you are right there isn't an expectation of privacy, but what it will boil down to is states/feds v. your everyday citizen and the lawyers that each will have to argue their cases...

its absolutely ridiculous to have such a double standard

Curious said...

Isn't this the same law that got Linda Tripp in trouble when she taped her conversation with Monica Lewinsky without letting her know. If the law was good then, then it should be good now and 1st Amendment Rights would only apply in regards to the dissemination of the taped events rather than the production of them.

BTW, I'm against it but I realize that judicial precedent will be on the law's side.

msladydeborah said...

I see this as an attempt to cut down on the number of law suits brought by the citizens against the police department. If there is no picture evidence then there is no at the scene evidence.

However, I also think that this could become a major problem for police departments if there a large crowds of people video taping them. It just takes one or two individuals who can get away and download the incident. That happened in my home town. The person who shot the video alerted the media and then it went straight to You Tube. He even took pictures of the officer's face and badge number. She had slammed an elderly woman to the ground and busted her head open. It was something that I think we needed to see.

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