Even someone who has not previously been involved in the criminal justice system likely knows that they have certain rights when they are stopped and detained by law enforcement officers. The right to remain silent and to call an attorney are just two of those Miranda Rights which are required to be communicated to someone when they are going to be questioned by police.
Individuals who are detained by law enforcement officers have other rights as well. Our attorney Scott Hallauer is currently involved with a criminal case that has garnered a lot of attention recently. It involves the use of a cellphone to record the police interaction during a traffic stop.
In the course of that traffic stop— which escalated when police said they smelled marijuana and an occupant of the vehicle was tased and pepper sprayed for refusing to get out—the phone was shut off by a police officer. According to Mr. Hallauer, that act was not legal since you have a constitutional right to record an interaction with law enforcement officers if it does not interfere with the investigation they are conducting. The driver had placed the phone, out of the way, on the car’s dashboard.
This right comes out of U.S. Supreme Court case, Christopher Sharp v. Baltimore City Police Department. In that case recording devices were deemed to be a form of speech. As a result, private citizens can use the devices to “gather and disseminate information of public concern, including the conduct of law enforcement officers.”
Evidence recorded on a cellphone could make a difference regarding the outcome of a criminal case. Accordingly, the allegation that the police officer deleted the recording made in this case could be an issue for him. The FBI is currently trying to determine when the video—which was allegedly recovered by the woman from the cellphone’s trash bin—was deleted. Depending on the results of that investigation a civil rights lawsuit could be forthcoming.
The use of cellphones by so many individuals in the United States has made an impact on criminal cases throughout the nation. It is possible that many people accused of crimes are not aware of their rights regarding their use to make recordings. This is a good example of why, if you are facing a criminal charge, it is vital to work with a lawyer who stays on top of changes such as these that impact the criminal justice system. For more information on how our law firm may be of assistance to you, please see our criminal defense website.