I don’t know if you saw this, though back in April, a testosterone fueled young guy was pulled over for speeding and popping a wheelie on his motorcycle in Baltimore county by a hell bent Maryland State police officer with his gun drawn. At first, I thought the guy had a hidden camera inside his helmet to not only record his escapades, it’s a good way to keep the Police in line and make sure they follow proper procedure. Then I see it’s a regular camera, bolted on top of his helmet, and is not hidden in any way!
The cop did not realize it was a camera, since he was ready to unleash a hail of lead on the youngster:
So the kid ends up with a video of the stop and posts it. The cops toss him in jail for 26 hours, raid his parents home @ the crack of dawn & detain his mother and sister, preventing them from going to work, and steal 4 computers, and charge him with a felony, and threaten him with 5 years in jail for recording the movie. And the camera was not even hidden:
Now I am sure this young man had no idea he would be arrested, let alone in this way, as he was just having a little fun. I will say some of our clients have purchased cameras and audio recorders for such reasons, specifically to record what a Cop does when he pulls them over.
They end up attempting to charge him under Federal wiretap laws, just like US Customs says is the reason they are seizing our shipments of spy pens and spy cameras from China. The third seizure forced us to no longer buy these items direct, and have to use USA suppliers, so we had to raise our prices to compensate. And with people selling stolen pens from the factories, rejects that did not pass inspection, and older models on eBay for $1 with free shipping, how on earth are we to compete?
Anyway, they end up with unsigned paperwork from any judge due to privacy of the judge? What kind of star chamber has this country become?
Luckily there is one person in the judiciary who thinks charging someone who records with a hidden camera under federal wiretap laws is beyond a stretch.
“The judge who released me looked at the paperwork and said she didn’t see where I violated the wiretapping law.” Ah yes, the wiretapping charge. That old standby that cops use when you happen to videotape them in public while they are on duty when they have absolutely no expectation of privacy. Sure, the First Amendment supposedly allows us to photograph police in public. Numerous court rulings have determined that. But now cops have turned to irrelevant wire-tapping charges to crack down against those who video them in public. Those laws are designed to protect people whose voices are recorded in telephone calls. You know, when you actually have an expectation of privacy. Fortunately, most judges end up throwing these charges out of court when the cops don’t have an expectation of privacy.
So this cases gives us good fodder for a possible challenge, as they are using the wrong laws to go after us. They are saying we violated Title 18 § 2512(1)(a).
Title 18 § 2512(1)(a).
(a) sends through the mail, or sends or carries in interstate or foreign commerce, any electronic, mechanical, or other device, knowing or having reason to know that the design of such device renders it primarily useful for the purpose of the surreptitious interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications;
I guess I’ll start with the ACLU, as we ain’t intercepting nothing. Is it surreptitious? Hell yes, though a recording is not an interception. It’s not pulled out of thin air, or tapped into a phone line. If they want to make it illegal to record video with audio, they need to make a law against it, not try and charge us with a crime we did not commit. Every camcorder, flip camera, and pocket DVR records video with audio. Every digital camera now records video with audio. Even the iPod nano, an MP3 player has a video camera with audio, so technically Apple is also breaking the law.
Wendell the Chameleon
Spy Camera and Surveillance Products Expert