A man has been charged in Carlisle, Pennsylvania with filming police officers during a routine traffic stop and faces up to seven years in prison for "wiretapping".
Brian D. Kelly is charged under a state law that bars the intentional interception or recording of anyone's oral conversation without their consent, reports the Patriot News.
The criminal case relates to the sound, not the pictures, that his camera picked up.
His camera and film were seized by police during the May 24 stop, he said, and he spent 26 hours in Cumberland County Prison until his mother posted her house as security for his $2,500 bail. Police also took film from his pockets that wasn't related to the traffic stop, he said.
Kelly, just 18 years old, is obviously extremely scared and has apologized profusely for not knowing the law. he has sought the help of the ACLU in the case.
The charge is invalid because it flouts privacy laws. Under the fourth amendment the expectation of privacy is not reasonable at such public places as automobile thoroughfares.
In other words filming on a public highway cannot be classed as an invasion of privacy.
Furthermore, the expectation of privacy is not reasonable if there exists a vantage point from which anyone, not just a police officer, can see or hear what is going on.
Charging someone with wiretapping for filming on a public highway in this sense would be akin to charging someone with arson for cooking burgers on a grill.
The charge also becomes bogus because the "wiretapping" law is not adhered to by police officers themselves. An exception to the wiretapping law allows police to film people during traffic stops.
In addition police routinely carry microphones that are wired up to their vehicles to record conversations without the knowledge of anyone whom they stop or question.
This is not the first time this has happened either. Last year a North Middleton Twp. man was charged in a street racing case that involved a wiretapping charge. Police claimed the man ordered associates to tape police breaking up an illegal race after officers told him to turn off their cameras.
Furthermore, just last month a 48-year-old man from Dover, New Hampshire was arrested for "wiretapping" for allegedly recording police while they were investigating him for driving while intoxicated.
Filming in public is a right every American citizen has under the first amendment, which is why the cops in the case above had to steal the camera and the footage, because there was no legal basis to seize it.
It seems that filming and photographing is now deemed to be a threat per se. Pick from any number of stories archived at www.freedomtophotograph.com for example.
In Seattle, police banned a photography student from a public park. He was taking photographs of a bridge for a homework assignment. The officers who ban him from the park do so without the knowledge of park officials and have no authority to do so.
In Texas a man was first threatened by neighbors and then reportedly accosted and sprayed with pepper spray by police. He was walking around his neighborhood, filming with his new video camera.
In New York, National Press Photographers Association members staged a protest in the New York subway system to bring attention to a proposed law to ban photography in the subway system.
In Philadelphia a magazine photographer was detained and questioned after a parade for taking architectural shots while waiting for a subway train.
In Harrisburg, PA a man was swarmed by 8 Police and accused of being a member of Al-Qaeda after shooting pictures of his new car under a bridge.
We have recently exposed how some police now do not understand that they are violating the rights of individuals. In other cases we have witnessed police pull out pocket constitutions from cars and question their legality.
In addition we have a government which has been mired in scandal for wiretapping US citizens without warrant, yet when the tables are turned US citizens face the full wrath of the corrupt judicial system.
Though clearly Brian D. Kelly had no criminal intent and is likely to escape with just a fine, the case sets a dangerous precedent. US citizens can be arrested and charged for filming on public streets.
It also sets the precedent that those who enforce the law are also above the law.
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