South Florida Police Arrest for Iphone Recording

This type of news story occurs too frequently in South Florida, and it’s always ire inducing. According to this Palm Beach Post article:

A “belligerent” 21-year-old was arrested early this morning on charges of eavesdropping for taping the encounter he had with deputies during a traffic stop.

Really, though, the belligerence was a young black man documenting his encounter with the police on his iPhone resting on his lap. Rather than proceeding with the stop in a professional manner, the officer arrested the young man:

The deputy noted in the affidavit that Paul was informed that he did not have the deputies’ permission to record and was therefore violating a state law. Paul, however, refused to stop recording and was placed in custody.

First, let’s be clear, it is perfectly legal to record without consent if the other party has no expectation to privacy, such as in a public street. The courts have thrown out other police arrests similar to this and yet Carl Paul still was arrested and still put in jail. The cop may or may not have been aware of the precedents, though he will not suffer for either his malice or his ignorance. Simply, the cops have no incentive to get shady areas of the law right and, worse, they face little, if any, penalty for being wrong. Meanwhile, citizens are faced with high expenses, lost time, and a harrowing ordeal while the courts have to figure it out. To seek civil penalties against the police often takes money and time, which most defendants lack.

Citizens must encourage a system to disincentivize cops and prosecutors from simply arresting first and then sorting it out. Especially when the charges are either gray or they are simply trivial, like recording a traffic stop.