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Judge Rules Man Within Rights to Record Traffic Stop

Judge Rules Man Within Rights to Record Traffic Stop

YouTube Video Capture

The Baltimore Sun via YellowBrix

September 28, 2010

HARFORD COUNTY, MD – In a decision that could make it easier for citizens to record police officers in Maryland, a Harford County judge ruled Monday that state police and prosecutors were wrong to arrest and charge a man for taping his own traffic stop and posting it on the Internet.

Circuit Court Judge Emory A. Plitt Jr.‘s ruling helps clarify the state’s wire tap law and makes it clear that police officers enjoy little expectation of privacy as they perform their duties.

“Those of us who are public officials and are entrusted with the power of the state are ultimately accountable to the public,” Plitt wrote. “When we exercise that power in a public forum, we should not expect our activity to be shielded from public scrutiny.”

Plitt threw out four counts of the grand jury indictment against Anthony Graber dealing with the recordings he made with a helmet-mounted camera and posted to YouTube after he was stopped by a trooper in an unmarked car on an Interstate 95 off-ramp in March.

“This is one of the best days in my life that I’ve ever had,” Graber said Monday evening. “It’s such a huge relief, I can’t even explain.” The judge left intact only traffic violations that include speeding and reckless and negligent driving.

Plitt cited the videotaped recording of the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles and the explosion of “rapid fire information technology” to note that virtually anyone in a public place should expect their actions could be recorded and broadcast.

The judge wrote that Graber’s encounter “took place on a public highway in full view of the public. Under such circumstances, I cannot, by any stretch, conclude that the troopers had any reasonable expectation of privacy in their conversation with the defendant which society would be prepared to recognize as reasonable.”

The case was being closely watched to determine the limits of the state’s wire tap law, which critics contend was written decades before video cameras fit inside cell phones — even before cell phones — and was designed to prevent people from breaking into phone lines and secretly recording conversations.

Plitt “makes it crystal clear that the conduct Anthony engaged in was not and could not be a crime,” said David Rocah, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union in Maryland, which defended Graber in court.

“I think it means that police officers around the state are on notice that it simply is not a crime to tape a police officer or any other public official engaged in the public performance of their duties,” Rocah said.

But Harford County State’s Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly said the ruling “will make it more difficult for the police to do their jobs” and warned that people armed with cameras might soon point their lenses at car accident scenes “and eavesdrop as police take medical history” from patients. Cassilly could appeal, but said on Monday that he had not yet read the judge’s ruling.

The video that Graber posted online showing the plainclothes trooper, J.D. Uhler, jumping from his sedan with his gun drawn quickly became a Web sensation. The trooper had pursued Graber, alleging he was recklessly speeding on the highway and passing cars on one wheel.

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  • Cot_max50


    over 4 years ago


    oh boy! where do they come from??

  • Sheila_me_boat_max50


    over 4 years ago


    lajustice... RE your question about evidence. If you think the photgrapher actually caught a crime on tape and/or there is reason to believe their tape may yield additional facts. One would have to do one of two things:
    a) Ask for a copy to be offered to you (unedited).
    b) Obtain a warrant to seize the recording as evidence. (obviously this would prob only fly on felonies... Not traffic or lessor crimes)

    A copper taking a vid tape from a photographer is no different than a person flagging you down, popping your trunk and removing the tape from your cruiser cam because they believe they saw a crime occur in front of your cruiser... Or that you ran a red light without the proper audible and visual devices engaged. (Silly sounding hugh)

    One must remember that coppers are CITIZENS who are employed by the public to provide police services. And where that same citizen is also responsible for policing their community as well. Anyone can sign an affidavit, request a warrant be issued, visit the prosecutor to discuss the case and testify in front of the Grand Jury.

    Being all big and bad and yelling "GIVE ME THAT TAPE" at a photographer is just a waste of breath and an intimidation tactic that has been used for years... Because in almost all cases, the man yelling that authoritive instruction just doesn't wanna get caught doing something wrong or having just part of the video clip edited and posted on youtube.

    Bottom line... If you don't wanna be caught on video doing your job... Then you don't wanna be a public servant.

  • Sheila_me_boat_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Back in the day I had mixed feelings about cameras being used at a scene... Not because I was fearful of what they would see ME do... But because the knucklehead I was dealing with would do when they saw the camera.

    Most of the folks I encountered had the "It's time to get paid" mindset... So when they saw a camera, they would push the envelope to try and get you to snap or do something wrong. Hopping they could later use the recording in a civil suit.

    Bottom line... If you wanna wrap someone upset the head because you are angry at them or you don't agree with what they did.... You may wanna join a cage match league. If you are a professional who can maintain their cool and follow the SOP... Then you shouldn't worry.

    If anything... I would get the video tapers name (if they would offer it) and would contact them for a copy so I could use it in court against the actor. If they don't want to offer me a copy, that is their right.

    Taking the camera or memory card or tape would constitute theft... And if you take the whole camera, you may find yourself on the wrong end of a Grand Theft Charge (A felony).

  • Marvin_max50


    over 4 years ago


    why cant we just seize the video as evidence.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    I am all for random drug/alcohol testing of judges and politicians before they go to work making their decisions too...I bet we get better decisions by both branches of government .....

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    I wonder why they don't let cameras in the courtroom without the judges approval...Hmm..double standard or do the judges don't want themselves caught making dumb decisions or sleeping through trials???

  • 100_0795_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Wellllll, I agree that this is a very big gray area when it comes to random individuals or bystanders video- or audio taping a public incident. There possibly, and more likely probably, is private, pertinent information being discussed between officers and involved parties that are no body elses business. But this article fails to point out the right of an individual to record any event involving themself, in which applies to Mr. Graber. It seems it is really no different than an officer recording everything on his cruiser or personal audio in order to protect against false allegations. Life is usually a two way street.

  • Sw12_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I think we should start putting a film crew in this judges' courtroom on every proceeding he is dealing with so it can be posted on YouTube. See what he thinks about his ruling after that. I'm sure he would order this to stop or it would be contemt and therefore illegal. What a bunch of crap!!!

  • Photo_user_banned_big


    over 4 years ago


    Dash cams on patrol cars are logical. To protect the leo and suspect but it should be against to post in social media site for the safty of the officer and their family! It only makes for eaiser identification and target for retaliation!

  • Nys_omh_police_max160_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Well this guy will be able to use the video to probably get away with some of the tickets he got. But that State Police Officer was wrong!!! He pulls up in his own private vehicle jumps out with his weapon drawn and the first thing out of his mouth is "get of the motorcycle", he said that twice before finally saying "State Police". So I don't see anything wrong with me getting recorded doing my duty, as long as I'm not doing anything wrong or have anything to hide. That cop knew he was wrong thats why he didnt want to be recorded.

  • 474305986_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I think the judge was wrong, I dont care if people say if we can record them they they shoud record us. They are not the ones that have death threats toward them or their families. It should be against the law to place a video of a cop on youtube or anything else that the public can use as intel. I guess we can take our dash cam videos and post them all over the internet so people can see how some idiots act, or when we record a warrant we should place the subjects pictures on the internet so the people can see who the bad people are.

  • Eagle_rwb_max50


    over 4 years ago


    If the police can record all traffic stops, a citizen should be allowed to record his own traffic stop. Good ruling.

    I would be very concerned if a guy in a sweater and jeans cut me off and got out of his car with a gun drawn. His first command was "Get off the motorcycle" not "Stop. State Police Officer". He never displayed a badge. In my opinion, neither party did the correct thing.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    What about the idea that the recording is now evidence and confiscate the person's phone/video recorder? :))

  • Img_0035_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I welcome people recording traffic stops or my contacts (as long as they aren't getting in the way or verbally chipping away the whole time). I'm completely confident I will act appropriately and professionally, and even if they try to spin the video around on me, the totality of the circumstances will be in my favor. My agency doesn't have dashcams, and if someone wants to record contacts, so be it. I record some of my contacts and the detainee or arrestee has no expectation of privacy whilst talking to me, so why should I expect anything different for me?

  • Ship_patch_max50


    over 4 years ago


    The kid broke the law on the motorcycle and the police did their job.
    How is this a story??
    Who cares if it was videotaped, most cruisers have a camera running on traffic stops
    now anyway, so what does it matter if someone else has one as long as It's not obstructing
    justice ??

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