It seems like a strange question, but I’ve actually been asked this numerous times in the past. So, is it legal to film a police officer while they’re carrying out their duties?  The answer is yes, if that is all that you’re doing.  The First Amendment actually protects a citizen’s right to film a police officer. So why do people get arrested for filming police officers? The reason people get arrested for filming police officers is because the filming of an officer can quickly be deemed by that officer, who has the power to arrest you, as interference with police duties. Since the officer probably does not want to be filmed (would you want to be filmed at your job by some random person?), you might quickly end up under arrest for violating Penal Code section 148(a)(1) – Resisting/Delaying/Obstructing a Peace Officer in the Performance of his or her Duties. The Jury Instruction (CALCRIM 2656) for this crime requires that the following elements be proven: 1) the officer was attempting to perform or performing their duties. 2) the defendant willfully resisted/delayed/obstructed the officer’s ability to perform his or her duties AND 3) When the defendant acted, he or she knew, or reasonably should have known, that the peace officer was attempting to perform or performing their duties. There is a whole lot of room for interpretation here. So is it a good idea to film a police officer? There are plenty of scenarios where it might be a good idea, or the right thing to do, to film a police officer (see Rodney King).  However, there are also a lot of situations where the good done by filming an officer is minimized by the potential consequences.  It is a fine line and it is definitely an act where, if one chooses to engage in it, they should tread very lightly.  Also, be respectful of our Police Officers.  They do a hard job and they’re there to protect you.  Even if you don’t believe that, be respectful. Be respectful of everyone, for that matter. I suppose that, based on the number of times I’ve been asked this question recently, there is a real desire in the community to film police officers.  Most recently I’ve been asked this question in connection with police activity at DUI checkpoints. I imagine that the perceived need to film an officer is an unexpected need by its very nature, so I hope that by reading this post, you, the reader, are informed of your rights and the possible consequences of this kind of activity. If you have a random legal question, feel free to email me and I’ll get around to answering as soon as I can. Be safe this Weekend, San Diegans

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