Posted on 9/18/23

Most people have smartphones with cameras that record many aspects of their day-to-day lives. Many people may decide to use their smartphones to record encounters with police officers as a way to protect themselves. However, some Texas residents may think that it is illegal to record police officers in Texas. In Texas, you can take photographs and videotape law enforcement officers performing their duties in most cases. Under limited circumstances, it is illegal to record police officers.

Understanding Your First Amendment Rights 

If you are facing criminal charges for filming the police or exercising your constitutional rights, it is important that you contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The US Constitution’s First Amendment protects your right to record videos and photos of law enforcement officers in public places when performing their official duties. 

Specifically, the First Amendment gives us the right to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to assemble. These rights are comprehensive, but they are not without limitations. There are times when filming police officers in the course of their work is against the law.

Taking photographs of people, places, and things plainly visible from public spaces is protected by the Constitution. This includes taking photos of government officials like police officers doing their jobs in federal buildings and photos of transportation facilities. 

Public vs. Private Property

Police officers tend to shut down citizens who take videos or photographs of them in public spaces. They may even say it is illegal for you to do so and that they will arrest you if you keep recording them. When you are lawfully in a public place, you have the right to take photos and videos of anything in plain view. 

However, if you are on private property, you must follow the property owners’ rules regarding photography and videography. If you fail to comply with their rules, you could be arrested for trespassing and ordered off the private property.

Exceptions to First Amendment Protections

Even though the First Amendment protects your right to film the police in most cases, you cannot film law enforcement officers in any of the following situations:

  • Photographing or videoing the officer would interfere with the officer’s work
  • Recording or taking photos of the officer violates wiretapping laws
  • You are otherwise breaking state or federal laws while recording your interaction with the police or another person’s interaction with law enforcement officers.

Specifically, under the Texas Penal Code § 38.15, recording or taking photos of a police officer is prohibited when doing so will impede, interrupt, disrupt, or otherwise interfere with the officer performing their official duties. Obstructing the officer by videotaping the counter is considered a Class B misdemeanor in Texas.

Discuss Your Case With a Dallas/Fort Worth Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing charges for recording a police officer or have questions about the legality of doing so, do not hesitate to contact Abel Law Firm. Our seasoned Dallas-Fort Worth criminal defense attorneys are prepared to fight for you and your rights. 

Flower Mound Office

Phone: 972.584.7837

Denton Office