Federal Court Issues Strong Opinion Confirming That Citizens Cannot Be Arrested For Videotaping Police

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Judge Gerald Austin McHugh) has issued a timely opinion given, as noted by the Court, “recent events nationally, where videotapes by citizens have proven to be indispensable in bringing to light instances where police unfortunately misused their power.”

The Opinion was issued in the case of Gaymon v. Borough of Collingdale.  As described in media reports at the time the case was filed, three residents of Collingdale alleged that local police officers aggressively entered their home and arrested one of the plaintiffs simply because she had used her cell phone to video the officer.  After the case was filed, the defendant police officers asked the Court to dismiss the case, claiming that they were entitled to qualified immunity on the ground that the law was not clearly established that their conduct was unlawful.

The Court’s opinion firmly rejected that argument.  Noting that it is “hard to understand how merely videotaping an officer’s conduct, and thereafter retreating away from an officer to the confines of one’s own home” could constitute the charged crime of disorderly conduct, the Court concluded that “any reasonable officer should have known that pursuing disorderly conduct charges against [the plaintiffs] constituted a blatant violation of their Fourth Amendment rights.”

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