Is Recording the Police Legal in Texas?

A bystander’s recording of a police shooting in North Charleston, SC, may have Texans wondering: is recording the police legal in Texas? The answer, with some exceptions, is yes.

Most courts have agreed that the First Amendment gives ordinary citizens the right to record police officers that are in public and performing their duties. However, there are some exceptions to this right, including:

Interfering with a police officer. If a citizen’s recording of a police officer interferes with that officer’s ability to do their job, the officer can order the citizen to stop recording. This could include instances where a bystander recording the officer is standing too close in a manner that interferes with the officer trying to make an arrest, or when the recording provokes violent behavior from someone being arrested.

Against state law. In Texas, it is legal to record a conversation with another person as long as one of the parties consents — and that other person can be the person recording the conversation. Last year, an Austin judge ruled that all citizens have the right to record public servants in public as they are performing their jobs as long as they don’t interfere. Recently, a Dallas state legislator introduced a bill that would make it illegal to record the police within 25 feet. If the citizen is armed, he or she would not be allowed to record police within 100 feet.

When recording constitutes a crime. If, in the act of recording, a citizen commits a crime — such as trespassing, disorderly conduct or stalking — that citizen can be arrested. The right to record does not give you the right to stalk a police officer hoping to catch him or her doing something wrong.

The Cogdell Law Firm is a full service criminal litigation and appellate law firm with a focus on federal fraud defense, Medicare fraud defense, bank fraud defense, and white collar criminal defense. We provide client-focused representation at all stages of the process, whether our clients are seeking to avoid charges, have been charged, or are seeking reversal of a conviction on appeal. When results matter most, contact Dan Cogdell at (713) 426-2244 or info@cogdell-law.com.

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