Interactions with police officers usually make people nervous. Whether you are pulled over while driving, have a police officer show up at your door or are stopped by a police officer while in public, you are likely to feel anxious.
You may also have questions about what your rights are when interacting with police officers and what the officers can and cannot do. If you feel your rights were violated, having evidence of the encounter can help you prove it, especially video evidence.
A common misconception is that you cannot take photos or videos of your interactions with police officers in Pennsylvania, but that is not entirely true.
Yes, you can usually record the police
You have a legal right to take a picture or video of anything that is in plain view if you are legally present in a public space. This includes police officers.
The police officers cannot order you to stop taking pictures or recording and they cannot demand that you delete any pictures or video you have taken. Additionally, do not give them your phone if they ask. They have no right to take your phone or even view anything on it without a warrant and they cannot search for or delete any items from it.
This does not always stop police officers from trying this. They are likely hoping that you do not know any better and will do what they say.
However, if police officers threaten to arrest you if you do not stop recording, although the arrest would be unlawful, you should probably comply.
When you should stop recording
There are some exceptions to these rules. If the photographing or recording is interfering with the police officers’ ability to properly do their job, they can ask you stop.
They can also take your phone or camera without a warrant if they have a reasonable, good-faith belief that it contains evidence of a crime.
Knowing your rights when you are around the police is important. If you still have questions, there are professionals who can answer them.