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Police, The Fourth Amendment, Qualified Immunity

Video recording in public as “disorderly conduct”

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It seems to be becoming understood that that there is a right to video record in public places.  This is good.  I think this is at it should be.

However, there are ways of video recording that are, and/or should be, criminal.  For example, video recording through a small gap in somebody’s curtains should be illegal and probably is in most jurisdictions in the US.  Following somebody around and video recording their every move probably does, and should, become criminal stalking (or the like).  Of course, just following somebody around without video’ing them can be stalking, but using a camera on the person would seem to exacerbate things with respect to criminality of the conduct.  To name a more controversial situation, taking pictures of small children playing in a park, without permission of the child’s guardian, is something that at least some people think should be criminalized.

However, in my opinion, these exceptions should not be allowed to swallow the general rule that video’ing in public is a right and not a crime.  Let’s move now to a case where, again in my opinion, Judge John J. Tharp Jr. did not sufficiently recognize video recording in public as a right.

Case:  CATLEDGE v. McKnight, Dist. Court, ND Illinois 2015

What happened:  Plaintiff worked for a delivery service, and, as part of his job, had to wait in his vehicle to be dispatched to delivery jobs.  There was a particular parking spot where he frequently did his waiting in his vehicle.  Apparently, plaintiff had a habit of videotaping out of his vehicle from his parking space.  A woman called police about this one day, and the police came and searched plaintiff’s car.  Plaintiff sued for unreasonable search under the theory that there was no probable cause he was committing a crime, so there was not sufficient 4A grounds for searching his vehicle.

Decision:  Plaintiff loses because Judge Tharp decided that the police had at least “arguable probable cause” that plaintiff was committing “disorderly conduct.”

Comment:  I disagree with the decision.  Sitting in a vehicle and video recording — even doing so repeatedly — clearly is not a crime, and not susceptible to being criminalized under various Constitutional rights as properly applied.

Written by Burgers Allday

January 10, 2016 at 11:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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