Good News from the Supreme Court

There are a lot of ways that police, prosecutors, and other government officials argue that they can check on you without rising to the level of a "search" that would require a warrant. In recent years, officials at various levels and in various places have held that they can attach a GPS to your car to track your movements, get your cell phone records, or aim a heat-sensing device at your house to see what's going on inside, all without getting a judge's permission (they lost in court on the first and third). Yet when it comes to you recording them, they have a very different view. But in a rare bit of good news on criminal procedure, the Supreme Court has, by denying an appeal in a case from Illinois, effectively affirmed your right to record police officers in public:

The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from the Cook County state's attorney to allow enforcement of a law prohibiting people from recording police officers on the job.

The justices on Monday left in place a lower court ruling that found that the state's anti-eavesdropping law violates free speech rights when used against people who tape law enforcement officers.

The law set out a maximum prison term of 15 years.

As small cameras and smartphones have proliferated, police have gotten extremely skittish about being recorded by bystanders, or in some cases by people who have been pulled over. In one notable case, a passerby in Miami recorded police shooting a suspect, only to find himself arrested (he hid his phone's SIM card in his mouth to keep them from destroying it). But now, as long as it's in public and you aren't interfering with their work, the police can't keep you from recording them. And here's a handy guide on doing it without getting yourself in trouble.

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