Is Recording the Police Officers in Texas Legal?

Due to police brutality becoming a regular topic on the news and social media these days, most states around the country require police officers to wear body cams. The purpose of these devices is to provide evidence of whether the officer in question is doing their job the right way. However, if the public wants to see those recordings, they need to pay a fee. This has led ordinary people to start filming all interactions with the authorities on their own, making sure everything between them was in order. But is recording the police legal? Here’s what you have to know.

What Does the Law Say?

In essence, public recording is legal in Texas. The First Amendment guarantees freedom for everyone to film, photograph, or record audio while in the open. The freedom of the press is a staple of a free society and is something all democracies need to hold dearly. Therefore, anything you do or say publicly isn’t private and personal, no matter if you’re a civilian or part of law enforcement.

Nevertheless, police officers have the right to ask people to stop recording if they feel like they’re obstructing police work in any way. If that occurs, you must comply, or they can charge you for interfering with police business. But that doesn’t mean that the authorities can take away your recording device. Everything captured up until that point stays with you until officers get a warrant to take it as evidence.

What About Private Property?

Texas wiretapping laws prohibit the free exercise of recording someone on private property if they’re not aware of your actions (Texas Penal Code Section 16.02). There is an exception: if at least one of the parties there is aware of your actions. The state of Texas sees that as permission and allows you to carry on with what you’re doing.

So, let’s say there are three people in the room. One of them tells the other that they’ll record audio of the conversation, while the third person is left unaware. This scenario is fully legal and won’t make for a case against the person recording. Moreover, it can be used as evidence in case there’s any criminal activity involved.

But if you attempt to record without anyone’s consent on private property, you can be charged with trespassing. Moreover, you’ll be liable for a civil lawsuit as well. The same rules apply to recording police officers. As long as they’re on public property, you’re good to go with your camera, phone, or any other recording device.

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