The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, handed down a ruling this week that has not received the attention the case is due. The case began in March 2010 when Carla Gericke was attempting to video a police stop of her friend.
Appellate Judge Kermit Lipez writes:
“This case raises an important question about an individual’s First Amendment right to film a traffic stop by a police officer. Carla Gericke attempted to film Sergeant Joseph Kelley as he was conducting a late-night traffic stop. Shortly thereafter, she was arrested and charged with several crimes, including a violation of New Hampshire’s wiretapping statute. Gericke was not brought to trial. She subsequently sued the Town of Weare, its police department, and the officers who arrested and charged her, alleging in pertinent part that the wiretapping charge constituted retaliatory prosecution in violation of her First Amendment rights.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals ruling states (Read entire ruling here):
“Under Gericke’s version of the facts, where there was no police order to stop filming or leave the area, a jury could supportably find that the officers violated her First Amendment right by filing the wiretapping charge against her because of her attempted filming of Sergeant Kelley during the traffic stop. It was clearly established at the time of the stop that the First Amendment right to film police carrying out their duties in public, including a traffic stop, remains unfettered if no reasonable restriction is imposed or in place. Accordingly, we hold that the district court properly denied qualified immunity to the officers on Gericke’s section 1983 claim that the wiretapping charge constituted retaliatory prosecution in violation of the First Amendment. – “.
Law enforcement officers put their lives on the line in our country every day. The efforts of the many honorable and brave law enforcement personnel should be remembered by everyone. But when on duty they also must recognize that we are a nation of laws and the laws apply to them as well as the public they serve. Many also need to have a better understanding of the constitutional rights we all share. Sometimes these rights seem to make some officers nervous and unfortunately there are far too many cases such as Ms. Gericke’s.
RT.com article on Ms. Gericke’s case.
Another case involving Simon Glik being taken into police custody for recording a police arrest he was witnessing. Police told him to stop because he was violating Massachusetts wiretap laws. Again the courts ruled in favor of a citizens constitutional rights.