It’s a normal Friday night. You’re out driving with friends, maybe headed to a party or coming home from one. Then it happens: police lights flash and an officer pulls you over. At first, you aren’t too worried – routine stops happen all the time – but as you interact with the officer, it becomes increasingly evident they plan to arrest you.
So you do what seems natural to protect yourself: after notifying the officer, you pick up your phone and start recording.
The officer doesn’t like this and instructs you to stop recording him. The officer says you’re not allowed to record them.
Is this true? Do you have to stop? Could you get in trouble?
In today’s technology-driven society, one of our most important constitutional rights is our right to record the police. This is especially true for those who are in the process of being arrested.
So the short answer is: no, the officer is wrong. It is absolutely legal to record your own arrest in Texas, and you should do so to help avoid police misconduct. However, there are some restrictions that you should be aware of.
Let’s take a closer look at what you need to know about recording your own arrest in the Lone Star State.
How to (Legally) Record the Police in Texas
Texas has a complex set of laws regarding recording the police.
Generally speaking, it is legal to record an interaction with any law enforcement official as long as you do not interfere with their duties or disrupt their investigation.
You do not need permission from the officer or anyone else to begin recording your interaction with them. This includes any interactions that happen while they are performing their duties, such as traffic stops, arrests, and interrogations.
In addition to being able to record your own interactions with law enforcement officers, you also have a constitutional right to film or record any public scene that involves a law enforcement officer if:
- you are on public property or
- have obtained permission from the owner of the private property where the scene takes place.
Important to note, however: you must film police activity from a distance without disrupting their activities. If you get too close or interfere with police activity, this may be considered obstruction of justice and can result in criminal penalties.
When Are Texans Not Allowed to Record Police Officers?
There are certain situations in which it is illegal to make recordings of law enforcement officials without their consent in our state.
For example, it is also illegal for individuals to use cameras equipped with telephoto lenses or night vision capabilities when filming law enforcement officers without their permission on private property (with the exception of circumstances involving national security).
Additionally, individuals cannot use drones when filming or recording law enforcement officers unless they have obtained prior written authorization from both local and federal authorities.
Should You Record Your Arrest in Texas? Absolutely
All in all, while it may seem intimidating at first glance to record your own arrest in Texas, it is an important part of protecting your rights and ensuring accountability on behalf of law enforcement officers.
As long as you understand the laws surrounding recording your interactions with police officers and abide by them consistently, you should feel secure knowing that you are exercising your constitutional rights responsibly and lawfully. If things escalate with the police and you find yourself under arrest, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.