February 18, 2014
A Florida woman spent the night in jail this week after attempting to document her own police encounter.
The woman, Brandy Berning, was pulled over by Broward Sheriff Deputy William O’Brien after driving in the carpool lane on Interstate 95.
Berning immediately pulled out her cellphone and began audio recording the encounter, informing O’Brien several moments after he arrived to her driver side door.
“Oh, I forgot to tell you I was recording our conversation,” Berning says.
Although Florida currently has a two-party consent law, which dictates that both parties must consent to being recorded, the supreme court has upheld that police officers do not have an expectation of privacy while working in public, therefore can be recorded without prior approval.
“Ok, well I have to tell you that you’ve just committed a felony,” O’Brien says.
Confused at the false claim, Berning barely has time to react as the deputy begins demanding the phone, now heading towards the passenger side door.
“You are committing a felony. Hand me the phone,” O’Brien says.
Berning can be heard demanding O’Brien leave her vehicle as the deputy climbs in and begins physically attempting to take the device.
“I know the law better than you, believe me,” O’Brien says as Berning refuses to comply.
By the end of the altercation, Berning is arrested and dragged to O’Brien’s police car, left with scrapes, bruises and a strained wrist.
Despite the deputy continually claiming her actions were illegal, Berning was only charged with resisting arrest and minor traffic violations, leading many to believe O’Brien knowingly violated her First Amendment.
After being forced to spend the night in jail, all of Berning’s charges were quietly dropped, giving more credibility to the idea that O’Brien’s only goal was illegal intimidation. Berning has now filed suit against the Broward Sheriff’s Department.
“There was a battery that occurred, false arrest, false imprisonment,” Berning’s lawyer, Eric Rudenberg said.
Unfortunately, similar instances of First Amendment violations by law enforcement continue to appear on news feeds across the country.
Just this week, a New York man was assaulted and arrested for video recording a police encounter from 30 feet away. Although the offending officer believed he had deleted the man’s footage, a police report was soon called into question as the footage was recovered, contradicting the officer’s claims.
Officers from the Newark Police Department attempted to take a man’s cellphone last year after claiming it could potentially be a firearm, a strange new tactic officers have used to avoid being filmed.
Unsurprisingly, officers that defend the right to record government employees have become literal rock stars among the public, leading many to hope that other officers will follow their lead.
This post originally appeared at Story Leak