By: Mike Hellgren
Several Marylanders face felony charges for recording their arrests on camera, and others have been intimidated to shut their cameras off.
That’s touched off a legal controversy. Mike Hellgren explains the fierce debate and what you should do to protect yourself.
A man whose arrest was caught on video faces felony charges from Maryland State Police for recording it on camera.
“We are enforcing the law, and we don’t make any apologies for that,” said Greg Shipley, MSP.
Video of another arrest at the Preakness quickly made its way online, despite an officer issuing this warning to the person who shot it, “Do me a favor and turn that off. It’s illegal to videotape anybody’s voice or anything else, against the law in the state of Maryland.”
But is he right? Can police stop you from recording their actions, like a beating at the University of Maryland College Park?
The American Civil Liberties Union says no.
“For the government to be saying it has the power to prevent citizens from doing that is profoundly shocking, troubling, and particularly in the case of Maryland, simply flat-out wrong,” said David Roach, ACLU.
Under Maryland law, conversations in private cannot be recorded without the consent of both people involved.
But can that be applied to incidents such as one caught on tape three years ago where a Baltimore officer arrested a teenager at the Inner Harbor?
“When you tell me to turn it off because it’s against the law, you’ve proven to me that I’m not secretly taping you,” said law professor Byron Warnken. “He doesn’t have the right to say, if you don’t stop recording me, I’m going to arrest you.”
The last official interpretation of Maryland’s law came from the previous attorney general saying it was legal for officers to record video on dashcams.
Delegate Sandy Rosenberg is pushing the current attorney general for his opinion on whether you can record them, too.
“If he finds that there are circumstances when it’s illegal, under existing law, to tape public actions by police or other public officials, then it’s appropriate for me to introduce a bill to change that statute,” said Rosenberg, Democrat, District 41, Baltimore City.
At this point, the attorney general has not indicated whether he will issue an opinion clarifying this law.