Your Right to Take Photographs

  • Generally, you have the right to take photographs and videos of anything visible in public spaces. This includes your right to record law enforcement officials carrying out their duties in public.
  • If you are in a private space, such as someone's home, all people present must give you consent to record. Do not share video recordings made in private without you consent of everyone present in the recording.
  • Police officers may not legally demand that you stop taking photographs and video recordings in public. And you are not obligated to delete such photographs or videos.
  • Police officers can, however, order you to stop recording if your activity interferes with duties of law enforcement personnel. In general, a court will trust an officer's judgment about what is "interfering" more than yours. So, if an officer orders you to stand back, do so.
  • If the officer says he/ she will arrest you if you continue to use your camera, in most circumstances it is better to put the camera away and call the ACLU for help, rather than risk arrest.
  • In most cases, police officers cannot search, confiscate, or demand to view the contents on your recording device, such as a cell phone, without a warrant. If police have a reasonable belief that the content of your recording device contains evidence of a crime, a court or judge may allow the police to seize that device.

Using a Video Recorder (Including Cell Phones) With Audio Capacity

  • You have the right to videotape and audiotape police officers performing official duties in public.
  • The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2000 that citizens have the right to record what public officials do on public property. That means you can record an officer during a traffic stop, during an interrogation, or while he or she is making an arrest.
  • You can record people protesting or giving speeches in public.
  • Georgia's Wiretap Law, however, makes it illegal to record private conversations without the consent of at least one person in the conversation. It is important to be aware that private conversations can occur in public places.
  • The Georgia Wiretap Law makes it illegal to record any electronically transmitted conversation unless one person in the conversation has given consent. Never record a telephone conversation without the permission of at least one person in the conversation.

If You Are Stopped or Detained for Taking Photographs or Videos

  • Always remain polite and never physically resist a police officer.
  • If stopped for photography, ask if you are free to go. If the officer says no, then you are being detained, something an officer cannot do without reasonable suspicion that you have committed or are about to commit a crime. Your stop is considered voluntary and is legal.
  • If you are detained, politely state that you believe you have the right to take pictures or video and that you do not consent to the officer looking through or deleting anything on your camera. But if the officer reaches for your camera or phone, do not resist. Simply repeat that you do not consent to any search or seizure. You don't want to invite a charge for "resisting arrest."

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