Nationwide — In recent months, many acts of police brutality have been captured on video from people using their cellphones. But there’s a big question circulating across the country of whether or not this is legal. Chris Eskew, a defense attorney in Indianapolis, answered these questions in a recent interview with The Indianapolis Star.
Q: What are citizens’ rights when it comes to filming in public?
A: “As long as you’re in public and you’re not harassing anyone, you’re able to film what is going on around you. If you see police brutality or an individual committing a crime, you should be able to film that. It’s very important that when people are recording the police, they not interfere with officers’ duties. Keep distance and don’t interfere with what’s going on.”
Q: If I’m taking a video of a fight or of police activity, can law enforcement take my phone right then and there?
A: “Police cannot take or even open up anyone’s smartphone without a warrant. The Constitution protects us against illegal search and seizure.”
Q: Can police seize and search the phone of a person they have arrested or suspect of a crime?
A: “If you’re arrested and your phone is on you, they can take it, but they can’t search it without a warrant.”
Q: Are amateur videos permissible in court as evidence?
A: “It can (be admitted as evidence), as long as proper evidentiary foundations are laid and someone can testify when it was taken. Every piece of evidence has to have evidentiary foundation.”
Q: Can a person who’s pulled over by police ask the officer if he or she can film the traffic stop?
A: “If you’re holding the phone, most officers will not be OK with that. You can ask, but they’ll probably say, ‘Keep your hands where I can see them.'”
To learn more about Attorney Chris Eskew and his law firm, visit www.eskewlaw.com