Is it Legal to Record Police Interactions?

With cases of law enforcement abuses making headlines, our Austin criminal defense attorneys explain what you need to know about recording police interactions.

To protect yourself when dealing with law enforcement officials, taking photos or videotaping the interaction is an increasingly common tactic. Is it illegal to record these confrontations? Generally no, but our Austin criminal defense attorneys explain some important details.

Allegations of Police Abuse Spur Citizens to Record Police Interactions

Recent cases involving abuses of power by local police and incidents where people were harmed as a result have been making headlines in Austin. KXAN News reported in December of 2020 on 11 Austin police officers who faced disciplinary charges due to allegations of police brutality against protesters earlier that year. More recently, a March 2021 Texas Tribune news report detailed a case in which a 42-year-old unarmed man was killed during a police stop as he left a local apartment complex.

These types of alarming incidents and local law enforcement’s reluctance to release dashboard or bodycam footage taken at the scene have prompted more people to want to record any police interactions they are involved in or witness happening with others. This raises the question: Is recording the police permitted? The answer is yes, but there are some important facts you need to be aware of in this type of situation. 

Recording Police Interactions In Austin

The Texas Chapter of The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLUTX) advises that in light of recent allegations of police abuses in Austin and across the country, it is important to be aware of your rights in any interactions with law enforcement officials and to take the steps needed to protect yourself.

Your right to take photos or videos in public places is protected by the U.S Constitution and in Texas, only one of the parties involved in an interaction needs to consent to a recording. This authorizes you to record police incidents, but you need to be aware of the following when doing so:

  • In making a recording, you must not interfere with the duties of law enforcement officials;
  • If you are on private property, you need the property owner’s permission;
  • You may not trespass or break any other laws in taking photographs;
  • Police can request you stop taking photos if it interferes with an undercover operation.

Police do not have the right to seize photos or videos you have taken or to destroy them or other personal property of yours. If you are detained as a result of recording police interactions, comply with the officer’s requests but remind them that it is your First Amendment right to take photos or videos and ask what you are being charged with.

Reach Out to Our Austin Criminal Defense Attorney

If you have photos or videos of alleged police abuses or are the victim of police brutality yourself, reach out to our Austin criminal defense attorneys at Granger and Mueller, P.C. To request a confidential consultation, call or contact our office online today.