Recording law enforcement in Alabama

Can police tell you to stop recording them?

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - It’s legal to record police in Alabama, but how you record them also matters.

Cellphone recordings captured by bystanders of the murder of George Floyd In Minneapolis are credited for the conviction of his killer.

Community organizer, Onoyemi Williams, said the community sticking together should become second nature when injustice happens.

“Be that eyewitness. Start recording and speaking up,” Williams said.

You have the right to record police in Alabama.

“There’s a case law out of the United States court of appeals, through the 11th Circuit, which is in the jurisdiction of Alabama, that specifically says under the First Amendment that you have an absolute right, especially if a police officer or public official is on a public property,” Birmingham attorney Roger Appell said.

“You can continue recording even if the police tell you to stop; but, it’s important to not record in a way that could lead to arrest,” Appell said.

“You cannot interfere with a police officer and their duties. You can’t trespass onto private property,” Appell said.

Police can tell you to move back and in that case, Appell said you must comply.

But if you’re not interfering with the officer doing their job, are on public property and still arrested for filming police, Appell said that’s unlawful.

“I would not fight with them. I would not disrespect them. I would do what the command was and then take them to their superiors, or file a grievance with the police commission. They don’t have the right to stop you,”Appell advised.

Appell said if you’re arrested for filming police, it’s important to argue the case in court and not on the street.

“We have to continue to be vigilant. We have to continue to take the extra effort. We have to continue to love strangers that we meet on the roadway because we never know when it might be us,” Williams said.

Copyright 2021 WBRC. All rights reserved.