According to some cops right here in South Florida, the simple act of pointing a camera at a police officer on the job is a crime. Here's the absurd theory: In Florida, it's illegal to record someone without consent; therefore, filming a cop without his permission is a crime.
Never mind that courts have repeatedly said there's no expectation of privacy on public streets, or that arresting people for filming police is a move straight out of Stalinist Moscow -- Palm Beach County sheriffs arrested another 21-year-old man yesterday for daring to film his traffic stop on an iPhone.
Carl Paul, who lives in Pompano Beach, was driving in Lantana just after midnight on Monday when a Palm Beach deputy pulled him over.
Paul began questioning the cop why he was being pulled over and "repeatedly asked for their names," according to the Palm Beach Post.
When the officers noticed Paul was filming the whole encounter on his iPhone, they demanded that he stop. Paul reasonably said he was simply "documenting what was happening," but the deputy apparently couldn't tolerate the thought of his traffic stop being recorded.
Paul was arrested and charged with "illegal interception of communication."
Really, Palm Beach Sheriff's Office? You're still playing this card?
Riptide called the office's media relations department and was told they would need to "research the issue" before they could comment on Paul's arrest.
Allow us to help you out. We wrote about the ongoing fight between cops and would be citizen journalists last year.
While the courts have yet to make a definitive ruling on a federal level, most legal experts agree that although Florida is a "two-party consent" state for recordings, the law has a clear exception for situations where there is no "expectation of privacy" -- for example, when a cop is working in the middle of a public street.
"It really is a perversion of this statute to try to apply it to filming or recording what public officials are doing in public," Randall Marshall, legal director of ACLU Florida, told us.
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SHOW ME HOW
Indeed, as Carlos Miller points out at his blog today, the last time Palm Beach cops tried to book someone for filming them, the courts tossed it out.
Tasha Ford was arrested in Boynton Beach after she refused to stop filming police arresting her 16-year-old son at a movie theater.
Paul's case is every bit as absurd. No one should spend a night in jail just for documenting their own traffic stop.