We live in a society where everybody seems to have a video camera on the cell phone in their pocket, and everybody seems to be videotaping everybody else. But there's one group that doesn't take too kindly to be videotaped -- police officers. In fact, many prosecutors around the country consider it a crime.
Anthony Graber is one such person charged with taping officers. The Maryland Air National Guard staff sergeant videotaped his March encounter with a state trooper who pulled him over for speeding on a motorcycle. Graber put the video on YouTube. (See video below.)
The tape shows the officer cutting off Graber in an unmarked vehicle, approaching Graber in plain clothes and yelling at him while brandishing a gun -- all before identifying himself as a trooper.
Prosecutors charged him with violating wiretap laws. He faces up to 16 years in prison if he's convicted.
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Time magazine writes:
The legal argument prosecutors rely on in police video cases is thin. They say the audio aspect of the videos violates wiretap laws because, in some states, both parties to a conversation must consent to having a private conversation recorded. The hole in their argument is the word "private." A police officer arresting or questioning someone on a highway or street is not having a private conversation. He is engaging in a public act.
Even if these cases do not hold up in court, the police can do a lot of damage just by threatening to arrest and prosecute people. "We see a fair amount of intimidation — police saying, 'You can't do that. It's illegal,'" says Christopher Calabrese, a lawyer with the ACLU's Washington office. It discourages people from filming, he says, even when they have the right to film."
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