Glenn Reynolds is right: this is totally outrageous. How can it be “wiretapping” to record a traffic stop from inside one’s own car? The police officer has no reasonable expectation of privacy when pulling you over on a public street.
What an absolutely ridiculous law. Supposedly, it “bars the intentional interception or recording of anyone’s oral conversation without their consent.” Umm, ever heard of overbreadth? What if I record two people having a loud “conversation” in a public place, which is easily overheard by anyone nearby? For example, a public shouting match between quarreling lovers? Is it “wiretapping” to capture a recording of that? No? Well, how about a police officer making a traffic stop on a public street? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
I do love how there’s an exception for the police taping citizens, but not for citizens taping the police. That doesn’t seem backwards at all! I mean, why should the police be subject to scrutiny anyway? It’s not like they ever do anything wrong! (Rodney King, anyone?)
Remind me, what country do we live in again?
Frankly, this kind of thing scares me much more than a lot of the political civil-liberties debates that people get all exercised about. The idea that someone could face a potential seven-year prison sentence for… making a video and audio recording of himself being pulled over in a traffic stop… in America… is beyond terrifying.
18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ã‚Â§Ã‚Â§ 5703, 5704: It is a felony to intercept any wire, oral or electronic communication without the consent of all participants. It also is a felony to disclose or use the contents of a communication when there is reason to know those contents were obtained through an illegal interception.
Under the statute, consent is not required for the taping of a non-electronic communication uttered by a person who does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that communication.
Krueger writes, “a DA who’d file charges in a case like this is reprehensible. All he’s doing wasting taxpayer money harassing Mr. Kelly by making him pay to defend a case the state hasn’t a prayer of winning. You know the drill–you can spend $20k winning the case, or you can plead out to something you didn’t do and pay a $500 fine.” Ah, legalized extortion.
P.S. Here’s one potentially helpful case for Mr. Kelly:
A police chief in his patrol car talking to dispatchers did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy and may be sued by a man arrested for filming him, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco (9th Cir.) has ruled. The full court declined to rehear the case last week.
On Jan. 28, 2000, Anthony Johnson filmed Byron Nelson, then-police chief of Sequim, Wash., as he talked with dispatchers from his patrol car. … After twice telling Johnson that it was illegal to record conversations without consent, Nelson and another officer physically struggled with Johnson, seized the camera and arrested him. Johnson spent three days in jail.
Johnson was charged with violating the Washington Privacy Act, which bars intercepting or recording a private conversation without the consent of all participants. The trial court dismissed the charges after finding that Nelson had no expectation of privacy because he parked his patrol car with the windows rolled down in a public place.
Johnson sued Nelson, the city, and others in U.S. District Court in Tacoma for violating his First Amendment rights and Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable search and seizure. The district court dismissed the suit, but the Court of Appeals reversed after Johnson appealed.
“It is undisputed that Johnson recorded Chief Nelson while he was on duty performing an official function in a public place,” Judge Kim M. Wardlaw wrote for the 2-1 majority. “Johnson did not violate the Privacy Act when he recorded this official, public activity.”
Hey, sometimes the Ninth Circuit is right. :)