These days, a lot of people keep their phones handy when they are approached by police, ready to record their interactions. They also keep them handy when they see the police making an arrest just in case there are signs of misconduct.
Do that in Florida, however, and you could end up in jail.
The fine line between public rights and obstruction
Generally speaking, the law allows private citizens the right to record public events where the people being recorded don’t have any reasonable expectation of privacy. However, that same right does not extend to audio recording made in private without someone’s consent or knowledge in this state. Police officers don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy when they’re on the job and performing their duties — such as when they question someone or make an arrest.
Just the same, that didn’t stop the police from arresting a Florida woman for filming the interaction between her son and some officers outside of a movie theater. Her arrest for obstruction of official police business was ultimately upheld by the appeals court — although not without dissent because of the dangerous precedent that it sets.
Without addressing the assertion that she was invading the privacy of the police once they’d ordered her to stop, the court did affirm the arrest based solely on the idea that the mere act of recording the police as they engaged with her son was somehow problematic.
In short, that means that the police can arrest you if they justify the arrest by saying that just standing there recording an incident is somehow interfering with their job duties.
When you’re under arrest, take no chances
It’s difficult to know what your rights really are in the ever-shifting legal landscape, but one thing is for certain: You need an experienced defense attorney by your side when you’re under arrest.