Question: Should I record a traffic stop with my smartphone? Can the video be used as evidence?
Answer: As far as recording the traffic stops, I never recommend that. I think it causes an undue hardship in the relationship between the officer trying to do his job and the defendant, who the officer is just trying to get information from. However, you’re really not breaking any laws if you are videotaping the officer, unless the officer can say that at such a time it arised that the videotaping interfered with the officer’s ability to do his job. So the officer is allowed to sort of tell you to stop filming if it’s actually affecting the arrest itself, but it’s not, you’re not really breaking any laws technically by videoing it.
It can be used as evidence as long as it can be authenticated, which the person who was videotaping can actually authenticate it themselves. So if some people are afraid of police officers, they can go ahead and try and videotape. It’s, you have more rights if you’re the person being arrested videotaping. If you’re somebody videotaping and you were, say, a passenger in the vehicle, because then the officer could say that your videotaping is interfering with our arrest.
So, I don’t recommend it. I definitely don’t especially with the fact that a lot of police are now being outfitted with their own cameras, so there will be some video evidence of most arrests at this point. I do think that it causes the officer to get upset, it causes the defendant, it becomes very adversarial and what may not have been an arrest, may have just been some information gathering, could turn into an arrest, whether lawful or unlawful. That is something that sometimes does happen whenever video is used.