November 2, 2011
A man from Pompano Beach, Florida, was arrested and charged with illegal interception of communication on Tuesday when he recorded a conversation with Palm Beach County deputies.
Carl Paul had questioned the traffic stop and asked police for their names. He was arrested after police noticed he was recording the conversation with his iPhone. Paul said he was “documenting what was happening,” according to an affidavit.
Paul was told he did not have permission to record the officers, a violation of state law in Florida.
Despite court rulings stating it is legal under the Fist Amendment to record police, it is a crime under the two-party consent law in Florida to intercept or record a “wire, oral, or electronic communication” in Florida, unless all parties to the communication consent.
Florida law makes an exception for in-person communications when the parties do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the conversation, such as when they are engaged in conversation in a public place where they might reasonably be overheard, according to the Citizen Law Project.
In September, a judge in Illinois threw out a case against Michael Allison for recording a conservation he had with police. The 41-year old mechanic faced 75 years in prison, tantamount to a life sentence. Circuit Court Judge David Frankland cited First Amendment protections when he wrote in his opinion that Allison had a right to record police officers and court employees.
Earlier this year the First Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision following a number of incidents where individuals have videotaped police officers and were arrested.
“The filming of government officials engaged in their duties in a public place, including police officers performing their responsibilities, fits comfortably within these principles [of protected First Amendment activity],” the court ruled. “Gathering information about government officials in a form that can readily be disseminated to others serves a cardinal First Amendment interest in protecting and promoting the free discussion of governmental affairs.”