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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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  • Photo_user_banned_big

    Scott_B

    almost 4 years ago

    20 Comments

    I think this ruling is absolutely spot on. What happened to Mr. Graber after he posted the video on YouTube was a huge waste of taxpayer resources.

  • Csi_squirrle_max600_1__max50

    mmmm

    almost 4 years ago

    550 Comments

    I just watched this video. First off the judge made the right ruling to dismiss.
    Now put yourself in the motorcycle rider's shoes. What would you have done had this happened to you. When the guy got out of his car with a weapon I would either have been gone or hurt him. This was a very poor decision by the trooper. No ID just a gun in hand. The first words out of his mouth were "off the bike". If I were the rider I would have been thinking carjacking. I would not have complied. Why didn't the officer get uniformed back-up? Why didn't the officer display his badge. Why did he have his gun drawn? Very poor tactics to say the least. As far as the traffic offenses I say guilty as hell.

  • 1979_max50

    Robocop33

    almost 4 years ago

    14618 Comments

    I can understand that what is done in a public place is public and you cannot forbid someone from observing or even recording it. Now, that said I do not think you should be allowed to use this or their images for personal gain, such as money without the express permission of everyone filmed or recorded.Also one should not be allowed to bring any recording into evidence that does not record the entire incident. That would stop these 'gotcha' videos setting others up.Additionally if filing or videotaping a police investigation interferes with said investigation then the police have a right to stop the video taping or filing of said investigation, ie gang investigation as a prime example.

  • Pl28_max50

    kuhnkejer

    almost 4 years ago

    220 Comments

    Mrbdguard, It is against the law to video tape in MD how is it his right. This is going to cost millions to tax payers. Law suite will happen when people start staging videos. POS will have a buddy only film a police officer using force. Not what happened before and the public most of which don't understand police work will cry out it was unlawful. Then bam the city pays millions because some staged edited video was posted on youtube

  • John_groh_max50

    wiseass0282

    almost 4 years ago

    10984 Comments

    Bump darsavmo on this one.

  • 000000000000000aaaaaaaaaa_max50

    Mrbdguard

    almost 4 years ago

    4604 Comments

    While I hate the idea of this I have to agree that this was within his rights...When I was working I swore to up hold these rights even if I did not like them.

  • Helicopter_max50

    DD3

    almost 4 years ago

    132 Comments

    It;s a well known fact that our local HA chapter records us every time we perform a traffic stop. Often, if we stop one of them, many more will show up with cameras in hand, then try to provoke us into a confrontation so they can show the footage and whine about how the Police are soooo mean to the friendly benevolent bike club members.......

  • 2008_masonic_coin_max50

    skanea1

    almost 4 years ago

    958 Comments

    While I don't disagree with the Judge's determination, the argument the defendant gives doesn't pass the smell test. However, unless he admits to wanting to entice LE to a traffic stop, he goes free. Reality is that there will be plenty of idiots out there who will create a situation just to tape law enforcement "being the bad guys".

    LE just needs to be even more vigilant with technology. I personally think the defendant is a jerk.

  • Cuffs_badge_gun_1__max50

    revcarey70

    almost 4 years ago

    234 Comments

    I totally agree with darsavmo, well said.

  • 12235_sq90_max50

    chiefkcr

    almost 4 years ago

    3614 Comments

    What happened to the wire tape law ?

  • Respect_max50

    oldtimer322

    almost 4 years ago

    360 Comments

    I agree with the Judge. Motorist should have been arrested, but not for videoing the stop. Cops have no expectation of privacy on an open road. I am iffy on the display of weaponry....although I will say that he never pointed it at the biker.

  • Thinker_max50

    darsavmo

    almost 4 years ago

    11356 Comments

    While I'm certainly pro LE, Maryland State Police and local prosecutors went way overboard in the handling of this case and the search of Graber's house, seizure of his video equipment, and his arrest for wiretap violations. Even the Maryland Attorney General issued an opinion immeidately after the arrest that was in favor of Mr. Graber.

    I also still disagree with the "off-duty" officer in civilian clothes approaching the driver w/ gun in hand and no badge showing, as shown in above picture.

    What if someone jumped out of their car w/ gun in hand and approached you in your car?

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