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Are You Allowed to Film the Police in California?

Posted by Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ. | Oct 03, 2019

There's no law that blocks people from filing the police.  Obviously, as you've seen throughout the years, many police officers are caught on video doing illegal things and a lot of time, a nice video is a defense attorney's best friend because that can be used to discredit the police if they're saying something that's not true that was actually captured on video.

Interference with Police Performing Their Duty

Where you could run into a problem in videoing a police officer in the performance of their duty is if you interfere with him or obstruct him in any way, they could arrest you for that interference or obstruct.  You're certainly entitled to film the police.  You're certainly entitled to document illegal conduct by the police.

Are You Allowed to Film Police in California?

Where I have seen problems though is where somebody is being arrested and they decide to film the police during an arrest and that blocks the police from actually arresting them.  Now, they may get charged with Penal Code Section 148 – resisting arrest.

So, obviously you can film the police but if the police are commanding you to do certain things and you choose not to listen to them and interfere with them while they are either trying to arrest you or stop you and investigate some sort of criminal activity, you might get charged with the crime of resisting arrest, obstruction of justice and a number of other different crimes they can charge you with.

But, it's certainly okay to film the police even if you're just a witness watching what's going on, seeing somebody else being arrested by the police.  You could certainly film them.  So, you don't have any issues with filming the police.

You're only limited by not interfering with them while they're trying to do their job and a lot of times the police will go too far and grab people who are trying to film them, claiming their interfering with their job when they're really not, but the police are just angry that the person is filming them or in their way, or they're actually trying to cover up the fact that they're doing something illegal.

Video Evidence Can Be Crucial in a Criminal Case

Video cameras from private citizens have bee very instrumental in helping get to the truth about what really happened in a criminal case.  If the police's own video evidence through dash cam videos on their police vehicle and body cam videos on LAPD officers have been crucial in either helping them get a conviction.

It can also help a defendant show the defense on video and corroborate some of the things the defendant has been arguing and get their version of events across and show the police did not act appropriately in arresting the particular individual.

So, if you've got a criminal case.  You've got video evidence and you need some help trying to figure out how it plays in, obviously, you want to set up a meeting with a criminal defense attorney.  I meet with people all the time.

They give me video and obviously breathe life into the video by talking to me about what's in there and what it means to them.  I obviously get all the facts and I can usually give them  pretty good idea whether the video is going to be helpful, hurtful or meaningless based on the circumstances that they present.

Hedding Law Firm
16000 Ventura Blvd #1208
Encino, CA 91436
(213) 542-0979

About the Author

Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

Ronald D. Hedding, Esq., is the founding member of the Hedding Law Firm. Mr. Hedding has an extensive well-rounded legal background in the area of Criminal Law. He has worked for the District Attorney's Office, a Superior Court Judge, and as the guiding force behind the Hedding Law Firm. His multi-faceted experience sets Mr. Hedding apart and puts him in an elite group of the best Criminal Defense Attorneys in Southern California.