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Recently, a divided Florida appeals court ruling on Wednesday upheld the arrest of a woman who filmed officers outside a movie theater. Officers had the authority to arrest a young mother named Tasha Ford who recorded them detaining her teenage son in 2009, based on a 2-1 opinion by judges at the 4th District Court of Appeal. “In short, she obstructed their investigation and processing of her son’s detention — a lawful execution of their duty,” Judges Melanie G. May and Edward L. Artau wrote. Officers said they gave repeated orders for her to stop using the camera without their permission, as it was interfering with the investigation of the teen accused of sneaking into a theater. Lawyers for the officers argued Ford invaded their privacy, justifying the charges of intercepting oral communications and obstruction without violence. The appellate court judges in the majority did not comment on the issues about the video recording, aside from noting that they had watched it. They noted only that the police had “probable cause” to arrest Ford on the obstruction charge. But Judge Martha C. Warner, in a lengthy dissent, wrote that the mom did nothing wrong and police should have no “reasonable” expectation of privacy in public places. The judge warned that shielding cops from view would mean “everyone who pulls out a cellphone to record an interaction with police, whether as a bystander, a witness, or a suspect, is committing a crime.” Warner went further as she declined to join the ruling that favored Boynton Beach police. “Given how important cellphone videos have been for police accountability across the nation, I do not believe that society is ready to recognize that the recording of those interactions, which include audio recordings, are somehow subject to the officer’s right of privacy,” Warner explained. Federal courts across the country have found the public has a constitutional right to record cops. The general rule is that recordings are allowed as long as it doesn’t interfere with police doing their jobs. The federal appeals court whose jurisdiction includes Florida has ruled people have “a First Amendment right, subject to reasonable time, manner and place restrictions, to photograph or videotape police conduct.” The State Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute Ford, but she sued the cops in a false arrest claim. The litigation continued for over a decade, as a trial court judge agreed with the officers and Ford appealed.

Post Author: moshe